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Radstone - Optical Tracker Solution

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Radstone Embedded Computing
: 03 January, 2007  (Company News)
Octec Image Processing – part of Radstone Embedded Computing – has announced that its optical tracker solution had been selected by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to be part of the Autonomous Airborne Refueling Demonstration (AARD) System that performed the first ever autonomous probe and drogue airborne refueling engagement on August 30th at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Utilizing a NASA F/A-18B and an Omega Air Refueling Services 707 tanker, the NASA Dryden flight test crew flew the F/A-18B to the designated pre-engagement position, activated the AARD system, and then 'rode along' hands-off through a series of refueling engagements.
'This is something that has never been done before, and is the remarkable realization of a long-desired capability for all air vehicles,' said Larry Schaffer, Vice President, Business Development for Octec. 'AARD is the result of a solid partnership, courageously taking on an extremely difficult challenge. SNC's blended relative GPS/INS and flight control technologies, working in concert with Octec's advanced image processing technology, have made in-flight refueling without the need for human intervention a reality. It is one of the most advanced applications of leading edge image processing ever demonstrated and would simply not have been possible without Octec's innovation and extensive experience. We're proud to claim the AARD system as evidence of our ability to develop imaginative solutions, and of our leadership in the field and proud to have been selected by SNC to play a vital role in the demonstration.'

Octec worked closely with SNC, DARPA and NASA over a fifteen month period to perfect the optimized image processing algorithms which were implemented on a COTS Octec image processor card and provided the high accuracy, low latency final closure phase flight control input to the SNC flight control processor. The image processing algorithms were derived from Octec's wealth of experience in applications such as spacecraft launch tracking, airborne reconnaissance, EO fire control and surveillance systems, and provided near-flawless detection, clutter rejection and rigorous tracking of the refueling drogue in three dimensions.

Dubbed 'a significant milestone' by DARPA and 'unbelievably stable and smooth' by the NASA test pilot, the successful autonomous plugs were the culmination of a 15-month DARPA-funded technology demonstration program. SNC developed the AARD navigation, guidance and control hardware and software for both the F-18 and the Omega Air 707 tanker and integrated Octec's optical tracker solution to ensure a precise and safe probe and drogue engagement. Program partner NASA integrated the AARD system onto the F-18 and orchestrated all aspects of flight operations and safety. Omega Air Refueling Services provided the Boeing 707-300 tanker. No modifications were made to the tanker's existing refueling systems.

The system as demonstrated also featured a Radstone 1ATR chassis equipped with a Radstone PPC7A single board computer fitted with a Radstone PMCF2 Flash memory mezzanine card.

'AARD is an excellent example not only of the way in which Octec's state of the art solutions engineering can be used to develop responses to the most challenging problems, but also of the synergy between the different divisions within Radstone Embedded Computing,' said Peter Cavill, President of Radstone Embedded Computing. 'As our customers start to develop increasingly complex, sophisticated systems, we are able to respond with the industry's broadest product line and a systems and applications integration capability that is second to none.'
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