Autonomous mobile equipment rely on imaging sensors as their primary perception mechanism. These sensors generate terrain elevation maps of the region surrounding the robot. The robot uses these maps to avoid obstacles, to detect task specific targets, and to generate path plans for navigation. Additionally, the sensors can provide a means to detect any humans entering the workspace, ideal for assisting humans operating dangerous equipment in construction, mining, or agriculture applications.
Millimeter wave (MMW) radar is an ideal imaging sensor modality because it provides precise range measurements for the environmental imaging needed to perform autonomous operations in dusty, foggy, and poorly lit environments. Existing radar imaging systems require moving parts to scan the radar beam which adds to size, cost, and reduces reliability. A completely solid state scanning radar would greatly improve the dependability and ultimately the acceptance and widespread use of automated systems. The decrease in the cost and size of the sensor resulting from a solid state approach would enable new operator-assist and autonomous applications for outdoor environments.
This project incorporates the current state of the art in non-mechanical scanning antenna technology with advanced millimeter-wave ranging technology to enable a small, reliable, and affordable imaging-radar sensor with no moving parts. Sensors will be demonstrated on the sponsor's equipment in typical operating scenarios and environments.