US 20080034954 A1
A stabilizing mount system for cameras, sensors and weapons. This invention stabilizes payloads such as cameras sensors and weapons on moving vehicles such as HMMWV's, (military Humvees) off-road vehicles, boats aircraft and unmanned vehicles. The stabilizing mount system allows hands-on control of the payload device such as the camera or weapon while the stabilization is active. This includes allowing a gunner of a crew served weapon to free-gun or have hands-on control to operate the weapon while the weapon is being actively stabilized. The invention has various modes including target lock. Cameras and sensors are also stabilized and provide a useable output for a remote operator or artificially intelligent computer.
1. A stabilizing mount system comprising:
a payload platform and a base with a stabilizing system connected between the payload platform and the base, the stabilizing system including means for moving the payload platform with respect to the base in up to three orthogonal axes;
a sensor package comprising sensor means for sensing motion and/or position of the base;
a control means to operate the stabilizing system in response to signals from the sensor package for stabilizing the payload platform;
the payload platform supporting one or more payload devices to be stabilized and which allows the payload devices to be controlled in a hands-on mode while the stabilizing system is active.
2. A stabilizing mount system comprising:
a payload platform and a base and a stabilizing mechanism for maintaining the payload platform in a stabilized condition;
a payload platform mounting system, associated with the payload platform for receiving at least one payload device, the payload platform mounting system allowing independent movement of the payload device relative to the payload platform, thereby allowing hands on control of the payload device while keeping the payload device in a stabilized orientation relative to the stabilized payload platform.
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wherein the operator can select the specific mode in which the control system will maintain the payload.
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28. A method of stabilizing a payload comprising a payload platform and a base and having a stabilizing system connected between them which includes means for moving the payload platform with respect to the base in up to three orthogonal axes, and locating a sensor package on the stabilizing platform or the vehicle for sensing motion of the base, and
providing a control means for operating the stabilizing system in response to signals from the sensor package resulting in stabilizing the payload platform, wherein
the payload platform is supporting one or more devices to be stabilized, and allowing the stabilized payload device to be operated or controlled in a hands-on mode while the stabilizing system is active.
29. A method in which a stabilizing mount stabilizes in up to 3 axes, by placing a hands-on control mechanism upon the stabilized platform which allows hands-on and operating control of one or more payload devices while the stabilizing platform keeps the hands-on control mechanism level, or at a pre-determined angle or position, and
controlling the payload devices in hands-on mode absent interference from the pitch, roll and azimuth movement of the base.
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capturing sensory data, processing sensory data, target location, target identification, target tracking, slewing a stabilized weapon or sensor, firing the weapon.
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37. A method of stabilizing one or more payload devices in one or more pre-determined vectors including the vector of the horizon, the vector of apparent gravity or a predetermined angle, allows hands on control of the payload in one, two or three axes while the payload is in stabilized mode.
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1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates to a stabilizing mount system for payload devices such as cameras, sensors and weapons wherein the stabilized payload device can be operated in a hands-on mode while stabilization is active. The invention will stabilize payload devices in one, two or three axes from motion imparted to the stabilized mount's base from the motion of the platform or vehicle upon which the stabilizing mount system is attached. The invention also relates to a self leveling, self correcting one, two and three axis stabilizing mount system which allows the capability for hands-on control, or free gunning of a weapon in both a hands-on stabilized mode, in wired or wireless remote control, or in a combination of hands-on payload device control and remote payload device control.
2. Brief Description of the Related Art
When using a camera, sensor or weapon, or any combination of similar payload devices on a vehicle such as a car, truck, HMMWV, boat, or air vehicle, it is often desirable for the operator to have hands-on control of the payload device.
Prior art weapon stabilization systems provide elevation and azimuth, which although acceptable for shooting a bullet, handicaps imaging devices such as cameras and sensors that need stabilized in the roll axis for accurate sighting. It would therefore be desirable to provide stabilization in all three axes—pitch, roll and azimuth which allows for weapons, cameras and sensors to be operated simultaneously from the same platform.
It would also be desirable for the operators of crew served weapons such as a 240 g, 50 cal, Mark 19, and others, to be able to use the weapon in hands-on or free-gunning mode while the weapon is stabilized. The advantages are that a human operator in free-gun mode has a faster response time to locate, slew and engage a target because of his increased situational awareness when standing with his head outside the vehicle and being hands-on with the gun versus if he were remotely operating the weapon from inside the vehicle with limited situational awareness created by the physical configuration of the vehicle including limited vision due to vehicle roof support structures, other occupants and equipment within the vehicle, and also decreased sound awareness through armored metal and bullet proof glass. This invention allows for the stabilized payload device, which includes cameras, sensors and weapons, to be controlled by remote control as well as hands-on mode. This includes free-gunning a weapon while stabilization is active.
Prior art does not allow mixing hands-on stabilized mode with remote control and target lock. This system provides for interactive hands-on payload device control coupled with automated control for directional and target lock-on capability
Prior stabilizing mounts for weapons are generally large, heavy devices which are fixed to the vehicle and not easily moved from vehicle to vehicle. In addition, when a vehicle is disabled it is preferable for warfighting systems to be easily moved to other vehicles or removed altogether should the vehicle need to be abandoned. Therefore is would be desirable to provide a lightweight, compact stabilizing mount system which can be easily installed and removed by one person within a matter of minutes. It would be desirable for the stabilizing mount system to fit standard military weapon receptacles such as the turret receptacle on a HMMWV, sand rail or convoy truck, and for the stabilizing mount system to be interchangeable with non-stabilized weapon mounts. This invention does that.
Another known drawback of prior art is they surround and/or cradle the payload device which can limit the size and shape of payload device. This invention's open payload architecture accepts any camera, sensor, weapon or payload device within its operational weight range regardless of the shape or physical size, within reason.
Current weapon mount systems are active in two axes—pitch and azimuth. The known drawback is that they stabilize in only one horizontal axis. Therefore video or sensor images exhibit the vehicle's motion in the non stabilized horizon axis which makes it difficult to locate identify, track and engage targets.
Two axes stabilization also makes it difficult if not impossible for computers and artificial intelligent imaging devices to locate, identify, track and engage targets when the sensor data is restricted to two axes stabilization. This invention stabilizes pitch, roll and azimuth, therefore providing a stabilized image throughout the display screen which is most usable by both humans and computers.
It would be desirable to have a stabilization system usable in any orientation including upright or underslung. This device can be used upright and underslung.
Previous art is restricted in its adaptability to accommodate differing payload weights and slewing speeds. One embodiment of this invention allows variability in payload weight and slewing speed simply by adjusting the length of the upper arm bracket arms thereby effecting both the payload capability and slew speed as changing weapons or combat situations require.
This invention integrates sensing means to automatically correct the sensor drift, error and bias that is specified as needing correction in previous art.
These mounts are stabilized in two axes which include pitch and azimuth. The roll axis is unnecessary because the bullet's trajectory path is not affected by roll.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the device includes a stabilized payload platform for supporting an article to be stabilized, a base, an actuator mechanism connecting the payload platform to the base, sensors for determining motion of a vehicle in three orthogonal axis, and a control system for stabilizing the mount. The stabilizing system includes at least one motor/actuator per axis to rotate the payload platform about that axis with respect to the base.
In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a method which provides the camera operator or gunner a self correcting stabilizing mount system which includes the steps of: positioning a stabilizing mount system on a moving vehicle; stabilizing the mount in up to 3 axes based on information collected by the sensor package(s); and allowing the operator to move the payload (weapon or camera/sensor) with hands-on control of the payload for target acquisition and firing.
In accordance with a further aspect, a method of the above whereupon a gunner can free-gun or upon acquiring a target, activate a target lock to hold the pointing position or target while his vehicle is moving. This method continues to allow the gunner hands-on and/or remote controlled aiming adjustments. This method may also incorporate a fluid head or pan/tilt/roll head with infinite drag adjustment for each applicable axis.
In accordance with a further aspect, a method of sensing free-gunning movement and once the weapon's hand operated speed exceeds a certain speed, the azimuth is disabled allowing the gunner to free-gun to a general position whereupon the weapon sensing a slower gun motion again locks position.
In accordance with a further aspect, an auto tracking device or software that locks on to a target and moves the weapon in relation to the target.
The method for slaving several different stabilization devices on the vehicle providing multiple weapons or weapon and sensor combinations with simultaneous stabilization.
In accordance with a further aspect, the method wherein the stabilized camera imagery, (often enhanced through magnification, IR or other methods,) is sent to eye glasses or goggles containing a small video screen(s). This method provides the driver with a stabilized image similar to that perceived by the driver's brain and head movements even though he is also moving. This method reduces confusion previously caused by the driver trying to coordinate his brain stabilized eyesight image with non-stabilized enhanced video, IR, or other imagery.
The invention is capable of outputting and sending precise vehicle and weapon aiming data to a central command and control center or vehicle for various uses including friend/foe recognition.
In accordance with a further aspect, a stabilized chair or standing plate such as found in a military HMMWV, is stabilized so that the gunner and the weapon are both stabilized.
Another embodiment allows the stabilization system to provide pitch and roll stabilization with a gimbal assembly and the use of motors and gears, such as in Grober U.S. Pat. No. 6,611,662; Autonomous, Self Leveling, Self Correcting Stabilized Platform. This embodiment in some situations can provide higher gear ratios and better resolution than linear actuator systems.
When the linear actuators 60 extend or retract, they cause the upper arm bracket to angle up or down in that respective axis while pivoting on the universal joint. One actuator controls the pitch and the other actuator controls the roll associated with the upper arm bracket. The central processing unit (CPU) 73 controls the actuator movements. The control system can be set to maintain the upper arm bracket at any desired angle. The most common usage is to set the angle to maintain a level horizon. This is achieved by a set of sensor signals which is supplied by a sensor package 73 containing one or a combinations of sensors which include but are not limited to level sensors, rate sensors, motion sensors, FOG sensors, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) Inertial navigation system (INS), GPS, or any other sensor device which can provide the inputs required by the CPU to move the actuators to maintain the desired position of the payload in pitch, roll and azimuth. Another angle of which the payload can be maintained would be the vector angle of apparent gravity. This is useful for when the payload is a person. In a turn a person generally does not want to be level with the horizon because the centrifugal forces tend to pull the person out of their seat such as when an airplane does a flat turn. Positioning a person along the vector of apparent gravity will keep them feeling properly balanced in a turn and during accelerations.
Y bracket 58 fits into receptacle 59 and can turn 360 degrees continuous. Set screw 61 can adjustably friction down the azimuth movement of the Y bracket and subsequently the payload weapon or secure it from movement altogether. Pin 65 e can include a sensor to sense position and/or motion of the payload, herein the weapon 50. Pin 65 e can also include a tightening mechanism to adjustably friction down the payload motion, or secure it altogether.
The sensor package 73 can go on the base 52, on the upper arm bracket 59, the weapon 50, on the vehicle
A battery or other power source 73 can be contained on the mount to make it independent of the vehicle's power supply, or the system can be powered from the host vehicle.
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In another embodiment, a drive motor, such as found in
In another embodiment the stabilizing mount may be a gimbal assembly with two orthogonal motors, or motor gear drives which are mounted between the payload platform and the base and the control system stabilizes the payload plate based on information provided by a sensor package sensing motion of the base or of the vehicle upon which the stabilizing mount system is attached. A friction head is placed between the stabilized payload platform and the payload device and allows hands-on movement and control of the payload device by the operator while both the friction head and the payload device are continually stabilized.
In another embodiment the stabilizing device has means for moving the payload platform in up to three axes. The means for moving, be they motors, motor gear drives, linear actuators, magnetic actuators or any other means for moving, can be pressure sensitive and be back driven, allowing hands-on control, including pointing of the payload device without the use of a friction head. This can also be achieved wherein sensors on the stabilizing mount can sense the operators hand pressure or other applicable operator input, and allow the computer to control the motion of the payload platform with the stabilizing mount's own motors or means for moving, thereby using the stabilizing mount's means for moving in place of the friction head. This can be done either by commanding the motors to move the payload platform or by allowing the means for moving to be back driven or positioned by controlling the torque applied to the motors, actuators or other means for moving.
The stabilizing mount system can be scaled smaller or larger depending on the payload requirements. Small systems can be carried by a person and hand operated. This is particularly useful when carrying small sensor devices such as hand held cameras or night vision systems. Larger systems can stabilize payloads hundreds of pounds or greater while allowing hands-on control of the payload device for it's operation and/or pointing.
The CPU, having access to all the sensor data as well as the motor and stabilization system data, can perform system analysis by comparing the image and sensor data to determine errors in the motion and movement of the payload platform or the payload device. Wherein the CPU and associated sensor computers comprise artificial intelligence, malfunctions in the system can be identified. The CPU can command the motor drives into a known frequency such as a rocking motion wherein the sensors can identify, either on command or autonomously, if the payload sensors are exhibiting the CPU commanded motion, and thereby performing its own system analysis. The CPU can then send out commands to inform the operator of a system malfunction as well as other system information. Information can also be sent out by the CPU vibrating the motors at a high frequency in which they will mimic the function of audio speakers. The motors can emit audio signals, musical notes or even understandable speech.
The sensor system for the stabilizing mount can provide vehicle and payload platform motion data which can include vehicle motion and direction in all three axes, GPS and position data. Other data can include weapon and payload device pointing data. This data allows for situational awareness of the battlefield environment which includes location of vehicles, people and objects.
2. The chair and weapon have separate stabilizing systems the chair is attached to the upper arm bracket or receptacle and is stabilized to the vector of apparent gravity. A second stabilization head such as in
While the invention has been described in detail with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made and equivalents employed, without departing from the present invention.