GPS Technology Contributes to “Robot Race”; Texas Program Sees First-year Success; Galileo Project Makes Headway; Industry Supplier Océ Aids Chicago Map Exhibit; Russia Advances Glonass

The Carnegie Mellon University/GM Tartan Racing team’s “Boss” took home the purse of $2 million during DARPA 2007.

GPS Technology Contributes to "Robot Race"

Going from grand to urban, the 2007 autonomous vehicle challenge staged by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) added considerable complexity for the 11 competing finalists from its two previous years in desert surroundings. On November 3, the final round of the DARPA Urban Challenge took place at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif., now used by the military to train for urban operations. The site required the teams to execute simulated military supply missions while maneuvering through city traffic and obeying California traffic laws--all autonomously. In the end, only six vehicles completed the course. The Carnegie Mellon University/GM Tartan Racing team’s “Boss” took home the purse of $2 million. Stanford Racing’s “Junior” stepped away with the $1 million second prize, and Victor Tango’s “Odin” from Virginia Tech took the $500,000 third prize. The winners were selected based on how quickly and safely they navigated the course.

DARPA is the U.S. Department of Defense’s central research and development organization. The DARPA autonomous vehicle race is structured to develop technology that will increase the safety of military personnel by eliminating the need to send troops on dangerous battlefield missions. The highly anticipated “robot race” highlights, in part, positioning technology.

In Carnegie Mellon’s, Stanford Racing’s and fourth-place winner MIT’s vehicles was Applanix POS LV inertial/GPS mobile mapping technology that served as the navigational and directional systems. POS LV systems can provide a continuous stream of position and orientation data when GPS signals are blocked, reflected or otherwise limited, as they often are in urban settings. During complete GPS blockages, the system’s Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) accurately measures changes in position and orientation for prolonged periods, and the Distance Measurement Indicator (DMI) computes wheel rotation information to further aid vehicle positioning, helping to stave off inertial biases and prolong system accuracy.

The Tartan Racing team included Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors Corporation, Caterpillar and Continental. Other sponsors included Google, Applanix, Intel, Vector CANTech, Tele Atlas, NetApp, IBEO, Mobileye, CarSim, HP, M/A-COM and Clean Power Resources. “Boss,” based on a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, had more than 500,000 lines of code to autonomously navigate in town and in traffic. The vehicle was equipped with more than a dozen lasers, cameras and radars. High-level planning determined the best path through a road network and accounted for static and dynamic obstacles, such as lane and road boundary information, parking lot boundaries, stop signs and speed limits. The autonomous vehicle dodged other vehicles running a stop sign or making sudden stops or turns, and avoided crashes--all at a maximum autonomous speed of 30 mph.

“This year’s race proved to be one of the most highly competitive fields we’ve seen beginning with a select group of 36 teams entering the qualifying event, 11 moving on to the Urban Challenge race and only six vehicles actually completing the course,” said Steve Woolven, president, Applanix Corporation. “The advances made at the DARPA Urban Challenge have significant implications on how positioning technologies can be used in the future.”

For detailed information, video and photos of the DARPA Urban Challenge,

Texas Program Sees First-year Success

This month marks a full year for the land surveying certification credit program offered at Montgomery College in Conroe, Texas. The program, created in response to the shortage of surveyors in Texas, is a steppingstone to the two-year associate of applied science degree the community college offers, and enables those without a college degree to start out in the field. Texas requires a four-year degree with 32 hours of surveying-related courses to become a registered professional land surveyor.

Matthew Samford, division counselor, says the certificate program has seen success in its first year. “It started out as a continuing education program,” he explains. “Surveying firms approached Montgomery College during the 2005–2006 academic year inquiring about our interest in starting a surveying program. Focus groups were formed and the Land Surveying & Mapping Technology program was then created. In December 2006, it was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as a credit program.”

The college also offers a Marketable Skills Award that is comprised of three courses to be completed in the first year, leading up to the 33-36 credit-hour land surveying certificate. The Marketable Skills Award helps to prepare a student to take the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Level I Certification toward becoming a Certified Survey Technician (CST). The land surveying certificate assists students preparing to take the NSPS Level II Certification toward becoming a CST. Montgomery College’s associate of applied science degree helps to prepare students to take either the NSPS Level IV Certification toward becoming a CST, or with two years of experience, the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying (TBPLS) Surveyor-in-Training (SIT) exam. Students who complete a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and have the required two years of experience as an SIT may sit for the Registered Professional Land Surveyor (RPLS) exam.

“We’ve received great support from the local industry,” Samford says, referring to the help of almost two dozen individuals and firms who serve as sponsors. The program benefits from the ongoing support and guidance of an advisory board comprised of local surveying professionals.

For more information on Montgomery College’s Land Surveying and Mapping Technology programs,

Galileo Project Makes Headway

In November 2007, Europe’s Galileo project made substantial headway in its planning. At the end of budget reconciliation talks between European parliamentarians, the European Commission and the European Council, delegates agreed that Galileo would be funded entirely by the EU Community budget, according to the Parliament’s press office. The 2.4 billion euros needed by 2013 will be funded primarily from money set aside for agricultural expenditures in 2007 that were not spent. Other funds will come from the redeployment of money intended for a few programs that do not require EU co-decision, the re-prioritization of certain amounts earmarked for research, and the unused margins in a competitiveness and growth program.

Additionally, a unanimous contract procurement agreement reached by transport ministers on Nov. 30, 2007, allows work to resume on the project. The procurement agreement reached ensures that competition among contractors would help control Galileo’s costs, while the overall collaborative effort would ensure Galileo’s future and keep the European aerospace industry competitive in GNSS.

Industry Supplier Océ Aids Chicago Map Exhibit

Océ, international provider of digital document management technology and services with offices in Chicago, has collaborated with Chicago’s Field Museum on the new “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” exhibition, which runs through Jan. 27, 2008. Organized by The Field Museum and The Newberry Library, and presented by NAVTEQ, the exhibition is a rare showing of more than 100 of the world’s greatest maps and features both works of art and engaging, high-tech interactive displays.

An Océ large format CS9065 eco-solvent inkjet printer produced a 21x26-foot map of the world, which hangs in the museum’s Stanley Field Hall for several events. Additionally, the 65-inch printer, using waterproof, fade-resistant inks, prints replicas of select maps from the exhibition for sale in the museum’s exhibition store.

“Océ is thrilled to be a partner as the Field Museum opens its ‘Maps’ exhibition,” said Michelle Sheldon, Océ’s marketing services manager. “It is one of the most ambitious cartographer exhibits in the world that honors many of our history’s oldest explorations and gives recognition to the art of map-making. The Océ printing equipment used will enable museum visitors of all ages to learn about maps and their creation and gain a greater appreciation of the world in which we live.”

Russia Advances Glonass

According to the Russian Space Agency’s Information-Analytical Centre, the three Glonass-M satellites launched into orbit at the end of October 2007 were put into operation in November and December. At press time, the current number of usable satellites in the Russian GNSS constellation was 13. The launch of the three satellites from Khazakstan’s Baikonur space center was the first Glonass-related launch since Dec. 25, 2006. Further proposed launches would expand the Glonass program to its full complement of 24 satellites, providing global coverage to military and civilian users.

Additionally, on Sept. 20, 2007, Russia’s government migrated from the datum used by Glonass, named PZ-90, to the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). The revised Glonass datum, PZ-90.02, offers new coordinates to improve the performance of the satellites, as well as geodetic support of orbital flights.

A reported $69 million has been allocated to secure the launch of Glonass satellites in 2008-2009.