Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

John F. Raquet, PhD


This research develops and tests a precision navigation algorithm fusing optical and inertial measurements of unknown objects at unknown locations. It provides an alternative to the Global Positioning System (GPS) as a precision navigation source, enabling passive and low-cost navigation in situations where GPS is denied/unavailable. This paper describes two new contributions. First, a rigorous study of the fundamental nature of optical/inertial navigation is accomplished by examining the observability grammian of the underlying measurement equations. This analysis yields a set of design principles guiding the development of optical/inertial navigation algorithms. The second contribution of this research is the development and flight test of an optical-inertial navigation system using low-cost and passive sensors (including an inexpensive commercial-grade inertial sensor, which is unsuitable for navigation by itself). This prototype system was built and flight tested at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. The algorithm that was implemented leveraged the design principles described above, and used images from a single camera. It was shown (and explained by the observability analysis) that the system gained significant performance by aiding it with a barometric altimeter and magnetic compass, and by using a digital terrain database (DTED). The (still) low-cost and passive system demonstrated performance comparable to high quality navigation-grade inertial navigation systems, which cost an order of magnitude more than this optical-inertial prototype. The resultant performance of the system tested provides a robust and practical navigation solution for Air Force aircraft.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number