Integrated Positioning System

Technology Demonstration – Self-positioning in unknown environments

The DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems has developed the technology for the ‘Integrated Positioning System’ (IPS) over the past 10 years. IPS is specifcally designed for real-time self-positioning and 3D mapping in unknown indoor and outdoor environments where there is no external positional infrastructure such as GNSS or Wi-Fi. DLR is currently converting the technology to be suitable for commercial use together with its industrial partner Deutsche Montan Technologie (DMT).

The model for the IPS is the human sense of direction. The human sight and sense of balance are simulated by means of a stereo camera and a (low-cost) inertial measurement unit (IMU). The sensor data are then processed and fused using an extended Kalman filter. The result is the location and position in space, described by the six degrees of freedom of the outer orientation. This data is needed for measuring systems/applications that require a spatial reference with respect to their environment. From the individual  measurements, a trajectory, i.e. the distance travelled, is derived from the runtime. The method is resilient against interference, as the physical properties of the sensors ideally complement one another. It provides more accurate results in real time and without external positioning sensors than is possible today with just opticallyor inertially-based navigation sensors of the same class, currently an accuracy error of about 0.2 percent of the distance covered can be achieved. The navigational data is further used to generate spatially referenced point clouds of almost any size from the calculated depth maps of the IPS stereo camera data.

IPS is a multi-sensor concept: when required, further external positional sensors as well as other sensors, for example mobile test sensors, can be integrated. Their data is then spatially-temporally referenced by the IPS. This is of great importance for a wide variety of visual inspection and maintenance tasks. IPS is constantly evolving in terms of functionality and performance. For this purpose, the Institute carries out research and development work and cooperates with various industrial partners. As a result, IPS has in recent years become a catalyst for a large number of mobile applications in the context of digitalisation and Industry 4.0.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Adrian Schischmanow · E-Mail: adrian.schischmanow@dlr.de · DLR.de/en