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Heading Estimation via Sun Sensing for Autonomous Navigation


Shah, Parth (2017) Heading Estimation via Sun Sensing for Autonomous Navigation. Senior thesis (Major), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9BG2M1S.


In preparation for the mission to Mars in 2020, NASA JPL and Caltech have been exploring the potential of sending a scout robot to accompany the new rover. One of the leading candidates for this scout robot is a lightweight helicopter that can fly every day for ~1 to 3 minutes. Its findings would be critical in the path planning for the rover because of its ability to see over and round local terrain elements. The inconsistent Mars magnetic field and GPS-denied environment would require the navigation system of such a vehicle to be completely overhauled. In this thesis, we present a novel technique for heading estimation for autonomous vehicles using sun sensing via fisheye camera. The approach results in accurate heading estimates within 2.4° when relying on the camera alone. If the information from the camera is fused with our sensors, the heading estimates are even more accurate. While this does not yet meet the desired error bound, it is a start with the critical flaws in the algorithm already identified in order to improve performance significantly. This lightweight solution however shows promise and does meet the weight constraints for the 1 kg Mars 2020 Helicopter Scout.

Item Type:Thesis (Senior thesis (Major))
Subject Keywords:Sun Sensing, Computer Vision, Autonomous Navigation, Robotics, Mars, Mars 2020, Mars Helicopter
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Mechanical Engineering
Minor Option:Computer Science
Control and Dynamical Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Burdick, Joel Wakeman
Thesis Committee:
  • Blanquart, Guillaume (chair)
  • Burdick, Joel Wakeman
Defense Date:5 June 2017
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06142017-153929873
Persistent URL:
Shah, Parth0000-0003-0780-0847
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10338
Deposited By: Parth Shah
Deposited On:15 Jun 2017 16:46
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:17

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