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Technology Development History

APL-NAV was originally designed in early 1997, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), for an aerial ocean photography project - SeaHawk (SH).

APL-NAV was a Flight Management package designed to assist in the planning and execution of aerial photography and mapping exercises.  It is a fully integrated package which can graphically plan surveys on user-configurable maps, control system hardware, provide real-time navigation, track real-time coverage, manage virtual pilot instruments, and provide operator training.  It has been designed to be modular and flexible, so that it can be easily adapted to a variety of specialized tasks.  Modules can easily be added and removed to handle new data sources, new planning paradigms, and new system controls without significantly altering the main package.  It is written primarily in Perl/Tk using ActiveState Perl v5.22 and Tk 800.022, with some C libraries written in XS. Two versions of APL-NAV have been adapted to programs at APL: SeaHawk Ocean Photography Adaptation (SH-NAV) and RTV LIDAR Mapping Adaptation (RTV-NAV).


SH-NAV Adaptation

The SH-NAV version was the original application of APL-NAV. It was designed for an aerial ocean photography project (SeaHawk) involving a twin-camera gimbaled system mounted in a Navy helicopter. This project was heavily dependent upon accurate assessments of local wind and solar conditions, so it was necessary to develop an FMS which would allow the operator to quickly plan complex flight geometries in the air.

  • Provides flight management and navigation capabilities
  • Allows real-time planning of complex collection geometries based upon mission geometry and ambient solar and wind conditions
  • Emulates assorted pilot instruments, enabling flight geometries such ascircles, strips, and hovers to be flown precisely and accurately
  • Can control real-time gimbal tracking
  • Provides a variety of complex tracking options

RTV-NAV Adaptation

The RTV-NAV version has been adapted to an aerial LIDAR mapping project.  This project required simple yet flexible control of the LIDAR system and real-time evaluation of area coverage.

  • Provides flight management and navigation capabilities
  • Provides graphical survey planning for calibration and mapping flights
  • Runs a CDI (Course Direction Indicator) on a video pilot display
  • Controls and configures the LIDAR system
  • Monitors and displays LIDAR coverage in real time
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