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SPIE 2008


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My SPIE 2008 Paper

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SPIE 2008

  1. 1. UGV Application Modeling & Sensor Simulation Using A Rapid Prototyping Test Bed Environment James Falasco Steve O’Leary President Director of Sales & Business Development Falasco Associates Mobile Robots Inc. 6411 Fieldcrest Lane 19 Columbia Dr. Sachse, Texas Amherst, NH 03031 972-575-8663 603-881-7960 ABSTRACT This paper reviews hardware and software solutions that allow for rapid prototyping of new or modified UGV sensor designs, mission payloads and functional sub assemblies. We define reconfigurable computing in the context of being able to place various PMC modules depending upon mission scenarios onto a base SBC (Single Board Computer) or multiprocessor architectures to achieve maximum scalability. Also addressed are the sensor and rugged computing packaging aspects and how such payloads could be integrated with unattended acoustic sensor topologies providing a more complete fused "picture" to decision makers. We review how these modular payloads could be integrated with unattended ground sensors to collaborate on mission requirements Keywords: Sensors, compression, UGS, UGV, thermal modeling, signal analysis, algorithm discrimination 1. INTRODUCTION The design of UGV sensors and mission payloads can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, the design cycle can be significantly shortened if the system designer has access to a flexible, reconfigurable development environment that closely mimics the capabilities and technologies of the deployed system. By integrating various PMC modules with a scalable, reconfigurable multiprocessor architecture, it is possible to create a development tool that will allow the system designer to rather quickly and accurately simulate and test with real data sets the various sensor designs and mission components to be fielded. This approach would be sensor agnostic in that it would not matter to the core processing set up what type of data was being harvested and how or at what rates. Data formats could come from all types of sensors; acoustic, video, various flavors of radar or RF signal Intelligence streams. Techniques presented will address how to seamlessly construct such systems for test and deployment. Specifically, we present a rapid prototyping and rapid evaluation system that will simplify the establishment of performance requirements, and allow the quick evaluation of hardware and software components being considered for inclusion in a new UGV sensor system design or a legacy platform upgrade. 2. UGV Sensor Development Environment The system hardware and software used to evaluate sensor designs and mission payload components and algorithms should be open and reconfigurable to allow for the mixing and matching of various vendor offerings. Provision for hardware independence is critical, since the hardware is very likely to rapidly evolve at the pace of new computer technology. The software infrastructure should be scalable and flexible allowing the algorithm developers the ability to spend their time and budget addressing the important functionality and usability aspects of the systems design. The system proposed here, a test and evaluation workstation built around reconfigurable hardware and a component-based software toolset, provides the necessary tools to ensure the success and cost effectiveness of initial sensor design and
  2. 2. payload development. At the center of any scalable prototyping system is a reconfigurable multiprocessing CPU engine with associated memory. The system depicted in Fig. 1 provides developers a scalable environment for application design and test. A COTS single board computer (SBC) tightly integrated to a PMC FPGA card for design experimentation forms the core system. A typical COTS SBC host as shown in Figure 1 is designed for demanding applications with restrictive dimensional requirements Many times we see the extremely space-efficient 3U form factor being utilized with its impressive processing core based around a Freescale 7448 PowerPC processor. A range of I/O options is offered including up to two Gigabit Ethernet channels, up to 12 bits of discrete digital I/O, and up to two serial channels capable of high speed operation in either asynchronous or synchronous mode or software programmable as RS232/422 or 485. This scalability provides the UGV sensor payload designer the latitude to scale the sensor I/O to meet the desired application scenario he is seeking to facilitate. Figure 1 Typical COTS Host with FPGA XMC Module Other PMC modules can then be selected depending on the type of sensor input that needs to be processed. One of the main advantages of this approach is the ability to rapidly prototype mockups for test and evaluation without a concern for the limitations of embedded development at this early stage. COTS SBC’s usually have the ability to host two PMC modules per card. The Video card can efficiently manage real sensor input coming in from an EO/IR sensor/camera, and also display that data in a fused fashion. This approach allows the system builder to work in the lab and the field using the same hardware/software environment. This system configuration also provides the developer with a test bed to define/design new hardware requirements and processing streams. 3. UGV PLATFORM CHARACTERISTICS The rapid-prototyping platform should combine robustness with flexibility, ease of procurement, moderate cost and features appropriate to the UGV application area. Packaging requirements exist in the two interlocking areas of sensor payloads and the computing power to manage the payload itself. These two packaging areas are required to be modular and many times oriented as LRU's (line replaceable units) for logistics purposes. The prudent systems developer will seek a chassis "partner" vs. a supplier to give advice on key aspects such as structural analysis, conformance to all military packaging standards, thermal analysis and signal integrity. Additional advice is required to select the best scheme for cooling of the payload and computing modules. Choices range from forced air convection cooling, conduction cooling, and liquid cooling. External, weather-tight interfaces to the internal embedded computer rack allows are a must to protect the sensor processing and guidance electronics . Due to the rugged environmental requirements placed on UGV application mission scenarios it's likely that the suggested packaging scheme will be conduction cooled COTS processing content enclosed in an ATR forced air chassis. Issues that the developer can dialog with their packaging partner about are operating temperature requirements, altitude envelope, connector type selection, power standards, MIL-STD 704 or MIL-STD 1275 could be valid choices. Other topics to cover are card wedge lock type performance dissipation and card edge temperature goals that need to be met for a set of enclosures that will need to survive the "shake ,bake , rattle & roll " of open terrain deployments.
  3. 3. One leading chassis supplier insures the developer makes the optimal packaging choices in these environmental issues by using various software packages to model and simulate candidate systems designs. See Figure 2 A weather-tight, fan-cooled space with powered connections for as many as five SBC's provides room to expand the basic 3-PMC modules as needed. form the basis of a typical sensor UGV payload A 25-30-mile operational range for the UGV meets most prototype testing needs. The ability to export regulated power for a variety of sensors is also a need, as a UGV without a sensor payload is of little use. Also of key importance is to tie that UGV sensor payload to a set of missions that has a measured payback in organizational efficiency. One such concept is the utilization of the UGV in an operational role that functions as part of a bigger network to provide decision makers with a broader overall tactical view of unfolding events. In essence a force multiplier to the situational awareness mission. In the application area of this paper we will discuss how this scenario could be accomplished by connecting a UGV with a network of unattended ground sensors. It appears that many systems designers are intending to use the VPX form factor in creating new sensor payload designs. Given the movement in that direction it is key for the systems developer to understand the options available in laying out a VPX backplane that will accommodate the required processing cards. With the VPX trend just evolving the developer should not assume that all enclosure suppliers can provide capability in this area. It is usually the best strategy for the systems developer to seek a VPX supplier who can offer their own content rather then “buy” it out. Figure 2 Packaging, thermal modeling & backplane concepts
  4. 4. 4. PROTOTYPING SYSTEM STRUCTURE Modern UGV sensor design is primarily driven by the goal of providing a net-centric flow of data from platform to platform. The achievement of this vision depends on transferring and processing vast amounts of data from multiple multiple sources. Let’s examine how one could use this approach to control and manage various sensors in a rapid prototyping environment. As depicted in Figure 1, the host server for the embedded UGV sensor design workstation is a COTS PPC 7448 .The boards’ architecture provides robust scaling to achieve high performance for the most demanding Signal and Image Processing applications. Design requirements associated with various sensor and mission payload solutions. The COTS SBC architecture combined with the FPGA based card shown below allows for seamless mapping of imaging applications oriented toward change detection and sensor fusion which will allow the systems designer to view multiple data streams in a simultaneous real time display environment. The prototyping architecture outlined here is based on a combination of tightly integrated reconfigurable computing, video and graphics. It will place the embedded avionics sensor design community in position to utilize the proposed system architecture in development of the actual controller for payload packages as well as the sensor itself and in its actual deployment integration. Most importantly it will allow for cost-effectively maintaining and extending the system when new technologies are available in the future. This approach allows one to demonstrate how algorithms can be implemented and simulated in a familiar rapid application development environment before they are automatically transposed for downloading directly to the distributed multiprocessing computing platform. This complements the established control tools, which usually handle the configuration and control of the processing systems leading to a tool suite for system development and implementation. As new design wins gain momentum the VPX based form factor should begin being used with more and more frequency. 5. The advantages of FPGA Computing A key component of reconfigurable scalable embedded avionics sensor design and prototyping capability is access to FPGA based processing. FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) is defined as an array of logic blocks that can be ‘glued’ together (or configured) to produce higher level functions in hardware. Based on SRAM technology, i.e. configurations are defined on power up and when power is removed the configuration is lost – until it is ‘reconfigured’ again. Since an FPGA is a hardware device, it is faster than software. The FPGA can best be described as a parallel device that makes it faster than software. FPGAs as programmable “ASICs” can be configured for high performance processing, excelling at continuous, high bandwidth applications. FPGAs can provide inputs from digital and analog sensors —LVDS, Camera Link, RS170 — with which the designer can interactively apply filters, do processing, compression, image reconstruction and encryption time of applications. The investment in FPGA software and associated tools should not be minimized in planning for you’re application launch Examples of the flexibility of this approach using COTS Modules hosted by a COTS multiprocessing base platform is shown in Figure 3. Figure 3 Typical FPGA XMC Modules PMC P14 LVDS 64 XMC P16 RocketIO 8 XMC P15 8 RocketIO GPIO QDR2 SRAM 2M x 36 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 QDR2 SRAM 2M x 36 300MHz 267MHz267MHz 300MHz 4 SPI Virtex 5 FF1136 Package LX110T SX95T FX??T JTAGJTAG CLOCKS I/O Header Ethernet RGMII Logic Analyser LVDS RS232 BMM Clock Generator Power Manager Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit x 3 SPI CPLD PMC P14 LVDS 64 XMC P16 RocketIO 8 XMC P15 8 RocketIO GPIO QDR2 SRAM 2M x 36 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 DDR2 SDRAM 64M x 32 QDR2 SRAM 2M x 36 300MHz 267MHz267MHz 300MHz 4 SPI Virtex 5 FF1136 Package LX110T SX95T FX??T JTAGJTAG CLOCKS I/O Header Ethernet RGMII Logic Analyser LVDS RS232 BMM Clock Generator Power Manager Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit x 3 Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit Serial Flash 128Mbit x 3 SPI CPLD
  5. 5. Figure 4 Typical UGV Mission Scenarios Typical UGV Platform Single Sensor Seeking Targets Advanced UGV Platform Dual Sensors Painting Target Dual Sensors Overlap &Paint Target Advanced Payload ApplicationAreas: IED Identification &Removal Force Protection Acoustic Monitoring Counter Sniper Fire Direction Stand-off SIGINT Monitoring Urban Reconnaissance In the application areas listed above tactical unattended ground sensor systems such as MicroOberver ™ can provide an acoustic data stream based on advanced seismic detection algorithms that can discriminate between people, biological, vehicle or weather related events. A UGS topology could efficiently be used in the above areas. In a Force Protection mission one could leverage unattended acoustic monitoring technology to provide an excellent forward warning capability for any deployed base Consider a scenario where a remote air base has been established. A UGS network could work in conjunction with several UAV’s to provide the base occupants a defense in depth capability. In their an urban environment a USMC or Army team may be asked to clear zones of potential insurgents. Upon completing their mission and clearing the area they may be asked to move operations to other zones. A potential mission strategy could be leaving behind a network of UGS that could passively monitor the area and alarm if insurgent activity returns. An alarm could trigger UGV's or UAV's to check out the situation using their payloads to correlate what they "see" with the UGS acoustic data. Key features to look for in any UGS technology would revolve around the requirements for long battery life, built in tracking capability and the ability to place the nodes covertly through efficient packaging and esas of deployment. The described coordination of UGS with UGV's and UAV’s truly demonstrates the doctrine of force multiplication applied to today's ever present asymmetrical threats. Other mission scenarios could be created to counter IED's, conduct stand-off SIGINT monitoring, and protect soft targets. Three of the images in the above figure show an urban environment that is being patrolled by a UGV with a sensor that is "painting" the area. Through the utilization of pop on pop off payloads the systems developer could test in what scenarios what combinations of sensors did best. This is where having a tightly defined and rugged packaging scheme with scalability will really pay off for all concerned. The sub image on the far right of the lower row in the above figure depicts a manipulator arm added to the UGV. The UGV manipulator arm is managed and controlled by a payload that could be used for a variety of applications including bomb & IED disposal, chem-bio sensor placement and perhaps the dispersal of UGS topologies. Since a major premise and payback of using unmanned technology is the ability to add force multiplication to a mission it is very critical that payloads are versatile and scalable and the platform they are on offers solid packaging. Figure 5 Conceptual UGS /UAV Mission Configuration
  6. 6. PMC #1—Graphics Graphics PMC modules allow one to combine a graphics overlay symbology scheme with incoming video. This type of module can be used in ISR payload design by showing various streams of incoming data taken from multiple sensors processed and fused; allowing designers to determine optimal sensor combinations for different mission scenarios. A tactical real world example might be the following scenario -reference the three pictures in Figure 4 dealing with sensors as background material for this scenario. In preparation for a mission it is determined using an unattended ground sensor network would help counter insurgent threats from holding valuable assets in an urban setting. A GIS map of the target urban area in conjunction with the video camera mounted on several UGV's to model effective scenarios in order to counter the insurgents the fusing of acoustic data from the UGS network combined with the GIS data and video give mission planners insight on what tactics could work best given various scenarios. PMC#2—Video Compression In the video surveillance application area, the video compression PMC module would pre-process and reduce the incoming data stream and pass it to the multiprocessor base system for potential change detection analysis. Then using a PMC 1553 module, communicating to an external avionics platform to perhaps control or guide ordnance being placed upon the target under surveillance. In each of the three examples above, the modules are interchangeable depending upon the specific mission. This approach would allow the soldier to move module packages between platforms achieving different mission scenarios PMC#3—High Speed Data Acquisition High Speed A/D data acquisition PMC modules can be used to aid designers in creating the optimal sensor combinations to perform evolving missions. In a typical SIGINT mission scenario perhaps it is determined that a certain mountain valley is providing the ingress and egress path for a terrorist group. The path is "seeded" with a UGS configuration and monitoring is started. When an alert is registered a UAV is dispatched to Investigate. The UAV is guided to the threat alert via data provided from the UGS topology. SIGINT sensor payloads aboard the UAV can tap into terrorist cell phone or radio chatter and based on that intelligence combined with other conditions allow war fighters a variety of decision choices. PMC#4 Sensor fusion for autonomous operation and force multiplication
  7. 7. Reduction of the incoming data stream is critical for a force multiplying autonomous platform. An autonomous platform could be configured to evaluate and rate threats and alert a human 'supervisor' only if necessary. This can be achieved if multiple obstacle avoidance sensors (e.g. lasers, cameras, radar) are fused together and data reduced to a path planning computer. With obstacle avoidance, path planning and localization tasks handled with a mixture of FPGAs and computers, a UGV can operate autonomously with minimal human supervision, allowing a supervising human to command multiple UGVs from a remote location. . 6. CONCLUSIONS The goal of integrating a UGV COTS prototyping system such as the one depicted here is to allow designers to use the same environment in the lab that they could then take to the field for live data collection activity. This is of particular value to a system engineer who could use such an environment to perform new development activities. Because of these efficiencies, the outlined prototyping system would pay off in accelerated product development time. Systems designers are traditionally faced with the challenge that today’s sensors are generating data at a rate far faster than the backend end systems are configured to process. Combine this fact with the reality that a sensor fusion “paradigm” is now mandatory for designers wishing to turn concepts into reality rapidly. A key component to a flexible hardware system, of course, is a software structure that enables designers to go from their ideas and algorithmic concepts to code or HDL. Packaging of the system is largely dependent on the user’s requirements for flexibility. Should the user desire a system that can be scaled up by adding additional cards, then a larger slot chassis could be configured to allow for the addition of other cards. The key point is that the core hardware outlined not only has the potential for scalability by adding additional modules to the base processing units, but the entire system has scalability as well. In this paper we have reviewed how a developer could leverage a well-packaged modular set of sensor payloads and integrate them with UGV’s & UGS topologies. We discussed mission scenarios and how they could be achieved by presenting the war fighter with the force multiplier of connected and scalable hardware. We hope these concepts provide topics for internal discussion and assist in creating more robust designs that can be deployed to the field.