UAV Propulsion Tech Post #20 – UAV EO/IR Gimbal Solutions

Blog #20

I just started representing DST Control in April of this year and market their gyro-stabilized EO/IR gimbal solutions and thermal imagers in North America.  DST Control is based in Linköping, Sweden and has several European UAV customers but wants to expand into the US UAV market.  I thought I would put together a blog showing some of the details of DST’s solutions.

Gimbal requirements are putting higher demands on the ability to see and detect under difficult conditions.  These requirements include pointing stability, detection distance, photon sensitivity and bandwidth.   This forces the development of specialized sensors, micro mechanical precision components, advanced software and electronics hardware resulting in more complex gimbal systems.

DST has a  range of advanced gyro-stabilized gimbal systems from  135mm diameter to 254mm diameter as shown below:

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Figure 1: DST Control Gyro-Stabilized Gimbal Product Line

DST named their gimbal line “OTUS” which is Latin for owl since the owl’s head operates like a perfect gimbal.  The OTUS-U135 is one of the smallest sensor systems on the market and can package 1 or 2 sensors (such as EO/IR cameras or laser).   They go up in size to package larger sensors and additional sensors.  The OTUS-U205 can package 3 sensors and the OTUS-U250 is the largest with the best stabilization and sensor options.  The OTUS-U135, OTUS-L170 and OTUS-L205 are available with either <100μrad stabilization or <250μrad stabilization.  The OTUS-U250 is a 4-axis gimbal and has the highest stabilization of <50μrad  and has the largest area for sensors.  Reference the photo below of the inside of the OTUS-U250.

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Figure 2 – Inside of OTUS-U250

I have detailed the specifications of the OTUS family of gyro-stabilized gimbals further below:

OTUS-U135 (Product Brochure)

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OTUS-L170 (Product Brochure)

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OTUS-L205 (Product Brochure)

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OTUS-U250 (Product Brochure)

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The sensor options are Sony EO cameras, FLIR infrared cameras, DST’s own SAITIS-640 thermal imagers, and laser pointers/range finders/illuminators.  A key benefit of SAITIS-640 thermal imagers is they are not ITAR controlled like other infrared solutions.

SAITIS-640 is one of the smallest long-wave infrared imagers available on the market.  SAITIS-640 is based upon a uncooled microbolometer FPA (amorphous silicon, spectral band 8-14 μm) with 640×480 pixels resolution. Unique features for the SAITIS-640 is its low weight and size (from 27mm x 27mm x 26mm) but also the minimum power requirements (1W).

The video output is PAL/NTSC video but also digital video output is available. The camera is controlled via a standard RS-232 interface. The camera is available with or without integrated shutter for NUC (Non-Uniformity Correction). The shutter-less version, SAITIS-640-X, requires an external shutter to perform the NUC. The camera with integrated shutter, SAITIS-640-S, has an automatic NUC manager integrated for easy-to-use operations.

The camera is ready-to-use without any training. All image processing is executed on-board, hence no external units are required. The SAITIS-640 can be equipped with a wide range of optics optimized for short-, medium or long range operations and has maximum exportability even in full frame rate.

I have supplied more details below for DST SAITIS-640 thermal imager alternatives:

SAITIS-640 (Product Brochure)

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Gimbal Options:

Video Tracking:  The Automatic Video Tracking Option means that the OTUS gimbal will have a software function capable of locking the LOS onto a specified object in the image.  Hence a moving object on the ground will remain locked onto the center of the OTUS video or IR image at all times, provided the optical features meet certain requirements.

Geo-Location: The Geo-Location option means that the OTUS gimbal will have a software function capable of outputting the GPS position of the viewed object centered in the video or IR image. For this function to work, it is required that two external sensors are connected to the gimbal:

  1. An external GPS sensor providing the position  of the vehicle (e.g. the position of the base of the gimbal).
  2. An external heading source providing the heading of the vehicle (e.g. the heading of the base of the gimbal).

Geo-Tracking: The Geo-Tracking option means that the OTUS gimbal will have a software function capable of locking the LOS onto a GPS geographical position on the ground. Hence the gimbal can be commanded to move to and maintain any given geographical position centered in the image.  This option assumes that the Geo-Location Option is enabled.

Laser Accessories:

  • Laser Range Finder (50 m to 4000 m): a device used to measure the distance to an object by measuring the time of flight for a laser beam emitted by the sensor and reflected by the object.
  • Laser Pointer & Laser Illuminator: a device that sends a laser beam to point out an object. The device is available with a wide variety of specifications depending on customer demands.

Low Temperature Option: means that the OTUS Gimbal unit is equipped with an internal heating element to ensure proper operation of payloads that are otherwise unable to operate at lower temperature. The lowest possible operating temperature is -40°C.

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Figure 3 – Firefly Hand Control Unit (HCU)

The Handheld Control Unit (HCU) is used for manual control and monitoring of one OTUS Gimbal Unit at a time.  The HCU is intended for direct wired connection to the OTUS Gimbal Unit, or for connection to the OTUS Gimbal Unit via an external wireless link. The external wireless link must be capable of bilateral transmission of a serial data stream between the HCU and the Gimbal Unit, and unilateral transmission of an analogue video signal from the Gimbal Unit to the HCU.

If you have any questions regarding these solutions, please call or email me at: bob@uavpropulsiontech.com.  PH: +1 (810) 441-1457.


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