Leading the way for autonomous vehicles: optical gyroscopes for inertial navigation

Leading the way for autonomous vehicles: optical gyroscopes for inertial navigation

Date & time: 4.30pm 11 June 2021, AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time)
Location: Online
Speakers: Dr Chathura Bandutunga

The idea of a smart, autonomous future is tantalisingly close to becoming reality. In recent years, the push towards fully autonomous transport has driven large advances in enabling techniques such as machine learning, sensor fusion and the development of lower cost, higher fidelity sensors. To achieve full autonomy however, vehicles must become self-aware of their occupants, their immediate surroundings, and lastly, their location in the world at large – autonomous navigation.

With the Global Positioning System (GPS), today we can determine our absolute location on the planet to within 10 metres, with an update rate of 1 Hz to 10 Hz - an impressive feat. However, the limited accuracy and update rate has a significant impact when, for example, autonomously operating in dense, urban areas or tunnels where GPS signals may be compromised. For full autonomous navigation, inertial navigation systems are therefore required to fill in the gaps. Inertial navigation refers to methods that integrate onboard measurements of acceleration and rotation rate to determine the change in position and direction of a device. This is a challenging task as inertial navigation systems are extremely sensitive to biases and drift, leading the measurements astray. For longer term GPS denied navigation this necessitates the use of highly sensitive, well-calibrated accelerometers and gyroscopes.

In this talk, I will discuss inertial navigation, its current applications and the key associated challenges, with a focus on rotation sensing using optical gyroscopes. I will describe the limits of the current state-of-the-art and the give an overview of the work undertaken at the Australian National University to develop the next-generation of high-precision, low-cost optical gyroscopes for an autonomous future.


About the speaker

Dr Chathura Bandutunga is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra. His research has focused on the development of interferometric metrology techniques for high resolution optical sensors. As part of the Applied Metrology Laboratory in the Research School of Physics, Chathura’s work spans projects in fibre optic sensing, optical spectroscopy, coherent beam combination and laser frequency metrology. His current work focuses on the integration of digital modulation techniques to augment optical systems and enable the synthesis of novel interferometric sensing architectures.

Chathura completed his undergraduate bachelor's degrees in Music and Science in 2014 and his doctoral studies in Physics in 2020 at the Australian National University. He is a Carver Prize Laureate and recipient of the Harold Wesley Allen Memorial Prize and Australian Institute of Physics (NSW) Postgraduate Award. Outside of physics, he is still an avid musician, community band director and photographer.

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