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Neptec Design Group is an Ottawa based, Canadian vision systems company, providing machine vision solutions for space, industrial, and military applications. Privately owned and founded in 1990, Neptec is a NASA prime contractor, supplying operational systems to both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. Starting in 2000, Neptec began expanding its technology to include active 3D imaging systems and 3D processing software. This work led directly to the development of Neptec's Laser Camera System, which is an operational system used by NASA to inspect the shuttle's external surfaces during flight. Building on Laser Camera System technology, Neptec has also developed a 3D imaging and tracking system designed for automated on-orbit rendezvous, inspection and docking. The TriDAR combines a high precision, short range triangulation sensor with a long range LIDAR sensor into the same optical path. Wikipedia.

Ahuja S.,University of Waterloo | Iles P.,Neptec Design Group | Waslander S.L.,University of Waterloo
Journal of Field Robotics | Year: 2015

Topographic mapping in planetary environments relies on accurate three-dimensional (3D) scan registration methods. However, most global registration algorithms relying on features such as fast point feature histograms and Harris-3D show poor alignment accuracy in these settings due to the poor structure of the Mars-like terrain, and the variable-resolution, occluded, sparse range data that are difficult to register without some a priori knowledge of the environment. In this paper, we propose an alternative approach to 3D scan registration using the curvelet transform that performs multiresolution geometric analysis to obtain a set of coefficients indexed by scale (coarsest to finest), angle, and spatial position. Features are detected in the curvelet domain to take advantage of the directional selectivity of the transform. A descriptor is computed for each feature by calculating the 3D spatial histogram of the image gradients, and nearest-neighbor-based matching is used to calculate the feature correspondences. Correspondence rejection using random sample consensus identifies inliers, and a locally optimal singular value decomposition-based estimation of the rigid-body transformation aligns the laser scans given the reprojected correspondences in the metric space. Experimental results on a publicly available dataset of a planetary analogue indoor facility, as well as simulated and real-world scans from Neptec Design Group's IVIGMS 3D laser rangefinder at the outdoor CSA Mars yard, demonstrate improved performance over existing methods in the challenging sparse Mars-like terrain. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Beach D.,Neptec Design Group
62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011 | Year: 2011

Following the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003, the Laser Camera System (LCS) flew as a component of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS) on all Shuttle missions including and subsequent to STS-114 Return-to-Flight. As the primary sensor for on-orbit focused-inspection activities, it was tasked with providing high-resolution three-dimensional scans and measurements of possible damage sites on the Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System. Additionally, it provided imaging, observation, and measurement functions for secondary tasks as required or requested. As the Shuttle program draws to a close, we report on me history and summarize the outcomes of the usage of the LCS in the Space Shuttle program. We outline each particular mission involvement and draw on experiences of the management, analysis, or operations crew of the LCS team in treating standard operations as well as any out-of-spec operational situations, highlighting outcomes as well as any required fixes, modifications, upgrades, or workarounds. We summarize the performance of LCS in the Space Shuttle program, and report on any outstanding or remaining issues. Finally, we provide a vision for LCS capability on future missions with inspection requirements, whether for the purposes of mission operations or improved safety of crew or equipment, and we suggest directions for future hybrid sensors combining situational awareness, inspection, automated rendezvous and docking, and high-bandwidth communication.

Neptec Design Group | Date: 2012-04-26

A head for directing radiated energy from a source to a coordinate in a field of view defined by at least one of azimuth and elevation, comprises an angled element and a planar reflecting element. The angled element rotates about a first axis and redirects the beam, the redirection of the angled element differing in at least one of direction and extent as it is rotated. An axis normal to the surface extends at an angle to the second axis. The reflecting surface receives the redirected beam at a point thereon and reflects it in a direction within the FOV. A rotator may be positioned between the source and the angled element to support and independently rotate the angled element and the reflecting surface about the first and second axes without impeding the energy.

Neptec Design Group | Date: 2011-10-18

A sensor for determining a profile of an object surface relative to a reference plane includes a radiation source, a collector, a processor, first and second reflectors and at least one reflective element comprising third and fourth reflectors secured in mutual angular relation. The radiation source projects a launch beam for impingement onto the object surface. The collector detects at least a portion of a return beam reflected by the object surface. The processor determines the profile of the object surface at a point of impingement of the launch beam onto the object surface from at least one characteristic of the at least a portion of the return beam.

Space can be a dangerous place, with debris floating around and threatening to hit satellites and space stations. In fact, an increasingly large amount of that debris is man-made. To try and combat the threat of space debris on the International Space Station, the Canadian Space Agency has announced a $1.7 million ($1.21 million USD) system that will be able to regularly scan the station for damage. This is hugely helpful, because a large amount of the debris in space is so small that it's invisible to the naked eye, yet moving at such high speeds, it can still do damage to the space station. "The vision system will use a combination of three sensors — a 3D [LIDAR] laser, a high-definition camera, and an infrared camera — to support the inspection and maintenance of the aging infrastructure of the International Space Station," said the Canadian Space Agency in a statement. It also will help in the docking of spacecraft that visit the station. The technology itself is being built by a Canadian company called Neptec Design Group, which has previously worked with the likes of NASA on a lunar rover called Artemis Jr. The new system, set to launch in 2020, will be around the size of a microwave, and will show damage that would, in some cases, have remained hidden to the naked eye. The system itself will be attached to Dextre, another robot from the Canadian Space Agency that performs repairs on the outside of the ISS. Dextre's new vision system will be operated by mission controllers at 's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, or at the 's headquarters in -Hubert, Quebec, and the images will be available to the public. It's not yet exactly known how the system will work in practice, however the use of infrared and LIDAR sensors should allow for much more accurate scans to the outside of the International Space Station.

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