Nonlinear Estimation for Vision-Based Air-to-Air Tracking
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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) have been the focus of significant research interest in both military and commercial areas since they have a variety of practical applications including reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, search and rescue, patrolling, real-time monitoring, and mapping, to name a few. To increase the autonomy and the capability of these UAV's and thus to reduce the workload of human operators, typical autonomous UAV's are usually equipped with both a navigation system and a tracking system. The navigation system provides high-rate ownship states (typically ownship inertial position, inertial velocity, and attitude) that are directly used in the autopilot system, and the tracking system provides low-rate target tracking states (typically target relative position and velocity with respect to the ownship). Target states in the global frame can be obtained by adding the ownship states and the target tracking states. The data estimated from this combination of the navigation system and the tracking system provide key information for the design of most UAV guidance laws, control command generation, trajectory generation, and path planning. As a baseline system that estimates ownship states, an integrated navigation system is designed by using an extended Kalman filter (EKF) with sequential measurement updates. In order to effectively fuse various sources of aiding sensor information, the sequential measurement update algorithm is introduced in the design of the integrated navigation system with the objective of being implemented in low-cost autonomous UAV's. Since estimated state accuracy using a low-cost, MEMS-based IMU degrades with time, several absolute (low update rate but bounded error in time) sensors, including the GPS receiver, the magnetometer, and the altimeter, can compensate for time-degrading errors. In this work, the sequential measurement update algorithm in smaller vectors and matrices is capable of providing a convenient framework for fusing the many sources of information in the design of integrated navigation systems. In this framework, several aiding sensor measurements with different size and update rates are easily fused with basic high-rate IMU processing. In order to provide a new mechanism that estimates ownship states, a new nonlinear filtering framework, called the unscented Kalman filter (UKF) with sequential measurement updates, is developed and applied to the design of a new integrated navigation system. The UKF is known to be more accurate and convenient to use with a slightly higher computational cost. This filter provides at least second-order accuracy by approximating Gaussian distributions rather than arbitrary nonlinear functions. This is compared to the first-order accuracy of the well-known EKF based on linearization. In addition, the step of computing the often troublesome Jacobian matrices, always required in the design of an integrated navigation system using the EKF, is eliminated. Furthermore, by employing the concept of sequential measurement updates in the UKF, we can add the advantages of sequential measurement update strategy such as easy compensation of sensor latency, easy fusion of multi-sensors, and easy addition and subtraction of new sensors while maintaining those of the standard UKF such as accurate estimation and removal of Jacobian matrices. Simulation results show better performance of the UKF-based navigation system than the EKF-based system since the UKF-based system is more robust to initial accelerometer and rate gyro biases and more accurate in terms of reducing transient peaks and steady-state errors in ownship state estimation. In order to estimate target tracking states or target kinematics, a new vision-based tracking system is designed by using a UKF in the scenario of three-dimensional air-to-air tracking. The tracking system can estimate not only the target tracking states but also several target characteristics including target size and acceleration. By introducing the UKF, the new vision-based tracking system presents good estimation performance by overcoming the highly nonlinear characteristics of the problem with a relatively simplified formulation. Moreover, the computational step of messy Jacobian matrices involved in the target acceleration dynamics and angular measurements is removed. A new particle filtering framework, called an extended marginalized particle filter (EMPF), is developed and applied to the design of a new vision-based tracking system. In this work, only three position components with vision measurements are solved in particle filtering part by applying Rao-Blackwellization or marginalization approach, and the other dynamics, including the target nonlinear acceleration model, with Gaussian noise are effectively handled by using the UKF. Since vision information can be better represented by probabilistic measurements and the EMPF framework can be easily extended to handle this type of measurements, better performance in estimating target tracking states will be achieved by directly incorporating non-Gaussian, probabilistic vision information as the measurement inputs to the vision-based tracking system in the EMPF framework.