Automatic Device Alignment Mechanism

Reference#: P03060

Far-Target Location (FTL) is a critical component in many modern battlefield situations. FTL can also be important for other applications where it is desirable to be able to identify the location of a distant target with a high degree of accuracy. A number of devices have been developed over the years to assist in FTL. A common goal of such devices has been to provide accurate target location in tactical field environments. Providing increases in accuracy may enable ordnance to be placed on target with a high degree of effectiveness. Thus, minimal ordnance may be employed with maximum effectiveness while, in many situations, keeping friendly forces relatively less exposed to risk.

Some examples of devices that have been employed to facilitate or utilize FTL include a laser designator (e.g., laser designator module [LDM]), a precision azimuth and vertical angle module (PAVAM), and a handheld target location module (HTLM). The LDM may be used to direct a beam from a laser light source in order to designate or “paint” a target. Thereafter, laser-guided bombs, missiles, or other precision munitions may be steered toward the target by using a reflection of the beam. The HTLM and PAVAM may be used to determine target coordinates. For example, the HTLM may include direct-view optical systems, night vision, weapon sights, laser range finders, digital magnetic compasses, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and/or the like to enable operatives in the field to identify a target’s location in various conditions that may be encountered.

In some cases, it may be desirable to use devices in conjunction with one another (for example, employing an LDM to designate a target and employing an HTLM to get the coordinates of that target at the same time). The U.S. military has recognized the importance of the development of a common man-portable target locator/designator suite for forward observers, air controllers, and scouts and developed the joint effects targeting system (JETS) to pursue a common system to serve multiple services. Development of such a common system may require multiple devices to be interoperable with one other. As an example, when used together, it may be desirable to optically align the devices (e.g., boresighting of the LDM/PAVAM to the HTLM). However, many of the devices may be made by different manufacturers, so direct communication to facilitate alignment may be problematic. Moreover, under some conditions, radiation downrange, which may be required to align some devices, may be undesirable or even dangerous.

Researchers at APL have developed an automatic device alignment mechanism that enables the boresighting of devices to each other without compromising safety and security, and without introducing complicated communication requirements between devices that may be of different types and made by different manufacturers. The alignment suite includes first and second targeting devices and an optical coupler, and its relatively light weight means that operators can more easily carry and use the technology in the field.

The first targeting device, which includes an image processor, is configured to perform a positional determination regarding a downrange target. The second targeting device is configured to perform a targeting function relative to the downrange target and can be affixed to the first targeting device. The optical coupler enables the image processor to capture an image of a reference object at the second targeting device that is responsive to the first and second targeting devices being affixed together. The image processor uses processing circuitry that determines pose information indicative of an alignment relationship between the first and second targeting devices relative to the downrange target based on the image captured.

Dr. G. R. Jacobovitz
Phone: (443) 778-9899