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Publication numberUS20080034954 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/343,711
Publication dateFeb 14, 2008
Filing dateJan 30, 2006
Priority dateJan 31, 2005
Also published asEP1897362A2, EP1897362A4, WO2007086874A2, WO2007086874A3
Publication number11343711, 343711, US 2008/0034954 A1, US 2008/034954 A1, US 20080034954 A1, US 20080034954A1, US 2008034954 A1, US 2008034954A1, US-A1-20080034954, US-A1-2008034954, US2008/0034954A1, US2008/034954A1, US20080034954 A1, US20080034954A1, US2008034954 A1, US2008034954A1
InventorsDavid Ehrlich Grober
Original AssigneeDavid Ehrlich Grober
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Stabilizing mount for hands-on and remote operation of cameras, sensors, computer intelligent devices and weapons
US 20080034954 A1
Abstract
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.
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Claims(46)
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.
3. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 wherein the means the means for moving comprises linear actuators.
4. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 wherein the means the means for moving comprises at least one of a motor or a motor and gear drive.
5. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising linear actuators each having a first and second end, the first end connected to the base the second end connected to the payload platform.
6. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising linear actuators each having a first and second end, the first end connected to the base, the second end connected to the payload platform, wherein the attachment points are comprised of moveable joints which allow for hands-on control of the payload while the payload platform is being stabilized by the stabilizing system.
7. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a support post wherein the support post contains a system to remove shock and/or vibration and in which the support post system includes at least one of a shock absorber, a dampener, vibration isolating springs, vibration isolating materials such as foams or compressible pads, electro-mechanical dampening means such as magnetic actuators or dampening by any other means.
8. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1, further comprising means to lock in a specific target or direction to which the payload will remain pointed regardless of the motion of the base.
9. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a camera or sensor which is stabilized for one or more purposes which can include but is not limited to target location, target identification, target tracking, target data acquisition or firing a weapon at a target.
10. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising at least one of a camera or a sensor which provides a stabilized image to a human operator or a computer for at least one of target location, target identification, target tracking, target data acquisition, engaging or firing a weapon at a target.
11. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising control of the stabilizing mount and/or the payload by remote control which can be either a hard wired remote control or a wireless remote control.
12. The stabilizing mount system of claim 10 further comprising at least one of a camera or sensor which can sense in up to 360 degrees.
13. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a stabilized standing pad wherein the operator is stabilized while standing on the stabilized standing pad.
14. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a stabilized chair wherein the operator is stabilized while sitting in the stabilized chair.
15. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 wherein the control system can maintain a payload in at least three different stabilized modes which include a horizon mode which mimics the vector of the earth's horizon, an apparent gravity mode which mimics the vector of apparent gravity operating on the mount, and a specified angle mode which is an operator determined angle, and
wherein the operator can select the specific mode in which the control system will maintain the payload.
16. The stabilizing mount system of claim 14 in which the payload platform further comprises a mount for a chair in addition to a mount for a payload device which can include at least one of a camera, a sensor, and a weapon.
17. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising multiple means for moving to keep multiple payloads stabilized simultaneously.
18. The stabilizing mount system of claim 16 wherein the stabilizing mode of each platform can be individually selected and maintained simultaneously in at least one of three stabilized modes including a horizon vector mode, an apparent gravity vector mode, or a specified angle mode.
19. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a power source integral to or located on the stabilizing mount and making the stabilizing mount self contained.
20. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 comprising an attachment interface, such as a standard US military sized center post which fits interchangeably into the turret assembly of a military vehicle in place of a non-stabilized weapon mount.
21. The stabilizing mount system of claim 19 wherein the size, weight and mounting configuration of the stabilizing mount allows it to be installed or removed by a single person skilled in the art in about less than 5 minutes.
22. The stabilizing mount system of claim 19 wherein the power source and the electronics mount on or underneath the turret assembly making it self contained and allowing 360 continuous rotation without tangling of the stabilization system wires.
23. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 wherein the stabilizing mount and/or the payload are compatible with numerous digital interfaces including at least one or more of Ethernet, JAUS, TCP, UDP, RCP, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, and other data interfaces.
24. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising adjustable length lever arms incorporated in the means for moving, which allow for adjusting the carrying weight of the payload platform and the speed at which the means for moving can stabilize for vehicle motion.
25. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising at least one of a latent image screen or radar screen wherein the sensor data appears on the screen and remains on the screen for a longer time than the actual event, thereby allowing a human operator or a computer to see the event even though the event may be concluded in real time.
26. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a GPS wherein the GPS provides at least one of a GPS coordinate position, pointing angle, or direction of travel of at least one of the vehicle, the payload platform, the stabilized device or a weapon on the payload platform.
27. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising protective armor to protect at least one of the stabilized mount, the payload device or the operator.
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.
30. A method of claim 28 comprising mounting a stabilizing weapon mount with self contained electronics for operating in one or more modes including target locating, target identification, target tracking and target firing, and wherein the stabilized weapon mount can be mounted interchangeably with a non-stabilized weapon mount.
31. A method of claim 28 wherein the stabilized camera or sensor acquires sensory data which is used to identify a target, and a computer is providing the coordinates to slew the stabilizing mount for aiming and targeting to do one or more of the following including target acquisition, target identification, target tracking, data collection or weapon firing.
32. A method of claim 28 further comprising an operator in the control loop deciding to confirm or deny weapon firing or other actions to be taken by the payload device.
33. A method of claim 28 comprising using a GPS associated with the mount for providing at least one of pointing angle, vehicle direction, vehicle speed and which are coupled with the stabilizing mount's sensor data, deriving the pointing angle of the payload device(s) and determining if the payload devices are pointing at a friend or foe.
34. A method of claim 28 wherein multiple stabilizing mounts are combined on a single vehicle to achieve the combined result including one or more of the following to include;
capturing sensory data, processing sensory data, target location, target identification, target tracking, slewing a stabilized weapon or sensor, firing the weapon.
35. A method of claim 28 wherein one or more stabilization mounts include camera and/or sensor means giving an operator independent stabilized camera and or sensor data providing situational awareness different than if the camera/sensor were sensing the same information obtained from the weapon sensors.
36. A method of claim 28 wherein the stabilized camera and/or sensor imagery is sent to a set of operator glasses, goggles or a heads-up display that shows different forms of data including one or more, but not limited to stabilized visual data, vehicle data, GPS data, situational awareness data including but not limited to visual and coordinate data from other vehicles, stabilizing mounts or payload devices.
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.
39. A method of claim 28 wherein the stabilized system is scalable such that substantially the same electronics can control stabilization mounts of any size by increasing or decreasing the actuator mechanisms and/or mount size.
40. A method of claim 29 wherein the stabilized system is scalable such that substantially the same electronics can control stabilization mounts of any size by increasing or decreasing the actuator mechanisms and/or mount size.
41. A method of claim 28 wherein the stabilization system incorporating a single sensor package for correcting its own internal sensor anomalies and errors and produces an output describing the horizon and thereby making the stabilization system autonomous, self leveling and self correcting.
42. A method of claim 29 wherein the stabilization system incorporating a single sensor package for correcting its own internal sensor anomalies and errors and produces an output describing the horizon and thereby making the stabilization system autonomous, self leveling and self correcting.
43. A method of claim 28 wherein a fluid head or pan/tilt, or pan/tilt/roll head with infinite friction adjustment is holding a camera, sensor or weapon secure to the stabilized payload plate, yet holding it loose enough to allow the hands-on operator or gunner to move the payload when and if desired.
43. A method of claim 29 wherein a fluid head or pan/tilt, or pan/tilt/roll head with infinite friction adjustment is holding a camera, sensor or weapon secure to the stabilized payload plate, yet holding it loose enough to allow the hands-on operator or gunner to move the payload when and if desired.
44. A method of claim 28 wherein the CPU taking camera and/or sensor information, and obtaining the payload weapon's pointing direction, projectile characteristics and determining how to elevate the camera and/or sensor data and elevating the camera and or sensor allowing the operator to look at the location where the projectile will hit.
45. The stabilizing mount system of claim 29 further comprising a computer, whereupon the operator or the computer, or the operator and the computer in a coordinated means are performing target location, target identification, target tracking, target data acquisition, engaging or firing a weapon at a target.
46. The stabilizing mount system of claim 1 further comprising a sensor, whereupon if the stabilizing mount system is aiming the payload at a direction or target, the sensor can sense the operator's hands on control either by pressure or any other sensor means, and moves the payload device to a new direction or target, and the stabilizing system becomes secondary to the operator's hands-on control until the operator acquires a new direction or target at which time the stabilizing system re-engages the payload device to hold the new direction or target
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

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.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of the stabilized mount, showing the shock absorber system, and with a weapon as the payload device.

FIG. 2 a is a side view of the stabilizing mount with a friction head, and camera. The motor configuration is different than in FIG. 1.

FIG. 2 b is a view of a man wearing goggles which have small video screens to show the image seen by the stabilized camera.

FIG. 2 c is a wireless remote control box with operations interfaces including a joystick, control knobs, switches and a display screen.

FIG. 3. is a side view of a HMMWV (Humvee) showing the A frame, turret and the stabilizing mount with a weapon being used by a gunner.

FIG. 4 Shows an example of two HMMWV's each with a stabilizing mount system that provides positional and pointing data to another vehicle or command vehicle.

FIG. 5 is a cutaway view of a HMMWV with a gunner on the stabilized standing platform.

FIG. 6 is a side view of a stabilized chair and weapon mount with armor shielding.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 illustrates the stabilizing mount system with a weapon according to the present invention. The stabilized mount's center post fits into a standard US military weapon's receptacle commonly found on vehicle turrets and other mounting locations. The center post supports the weapon and the means for moving structure. The entire assembly is shock dampened inside the center post. A device requiring stabilization such as camera, sensor and weapons is attached to the angle arm structure and is therefore kept level with the horizon. For the purposes of description the term “level” will also mean a pre-determined angle chosen to be maintained regardless of the vehicle motion. That pre-determined angle can be a vector relative to the horizon, or a vector relative to apparent gravity which takes into account accelerations which the stabilizing mount system is subjected when on vehicles.

FIG. 1 described in detail shows the center post 54 as the main weight bearing support for the payload device which in this embodiment is a weapon 50. The base of center post 54 can be various sizes or shapes depending on the application. The center post stud 53 can be designed to fit a standard US military receptacle for crew served weapons such as found on a Humvee (HMMWV) turret assembly. The center post 54 can be solid or a tube. In this embodiment it is a tube and houses the vibration and shock absorbing system 55 which is composed of vibration and shock dampeners which include but are not limited to one or more springs and/or shock absorbers. This shock absorbing system can be either a passive system or an active system wherein sensors, shocks, hydraulics and other means of moving are employed to reduce or eliminate shock and vibration. Attached to the center post are vertical support arms 56 and 57 which can be any desired shape and which support the horizontal actuator base support structure 52. The horizontal actuator base support structure 52 has moveable joints 74, which attach to linear actuators 60. Linear actuators 60 can be any variety of actuators which include but are not limited to hydraulic actuators, ball screw actuators, magnetic actuators, rams, jack screws or other actuating mechanisms. The actuators 60 have some type of propulsion, motor, or driving mechanism 62 for extending and retracting the actuator's arms. This propulsion mechanism can be a separate component such as a motor attached the actuator, the propulsion mechanism can include hydraulics, magnetics or an other driving force applicable extending and retracting an actuator. The actuators 60 are topped with another set of moveable joints 67 which are attached to the upper arm bracket 64 with pins 65. Pins 65, which are used to hold moveable joints, may also contain sensors such as encoders, potentiometers, hall sensors or other sensors which will measure motion such as rotation. The output of these sensors at the various pivot points will provide the CPU an accurate reference as to angle and configuration of the mount from which the CPU can determine the pointing angle and movement of the payload(s) such as the weapon 50, or cameras or sensors. The Figures show these some of these point as 65 a,b,c,d, etc. The joints 74 and 67 can be any variety of moveable joints including but not limited to clevis pins, ball and socket joints or universal joints. The top of the center post 54 attaches to the lower part of the upper arm bracket 64 with a universal joint that is located directly under the upper arm bracket Y joint receptacle 59. The universal joint can also be a ball and socket or other type joint allowing freedom of motion in at least 2 axis.

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 FIG. 4 # 51, or at any location where it can measure the host vehicle, or the stabilizing mount's base, payload platform or payload. The ability to place the sensors in various positions is possible by sensing the angles of the stabilizing system's framework parts such as the base 52, the actuators 60, the upper arm bracket 59, and the payload 50. One method is to associate sensors at the joints, such as at pins 65 and will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

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.

In another embodiment of FIG. 1, the base of the linear actuators 60 can be attached directly to the center post by moveable joints such as 74. In this embodiment, just as in FIG. 1, any up and down motion of the shock absorbing system will have no effect on actuator 60 length, and subsequently the shock system can also include a vertical extension actuator or other means for moving the stabilization system up and down. This can have the additional advantage of vertical stabilization when desired.

In another embodiment, a drive motor, such as found in FIG. 2 a # 18, would swivel the Y joint in azimuth based on commands from the CPU or the operator, or act as a drag mechanism. The stabilizing mount system in order to be lightweight, can have many of its parts fabricated with materials such as carbon fiber, composites, sandwich materials or aluminum.

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.

FIG. 2 a is the stabilizing mount, which has mounted on it a camera or sensor 20 which provides either a bore sight image of where the weapon is pointing, or can provide surrounding imagery by use of a pointing mechanism 22, such as a pan and tilt mechanism, wherein both the camera and the pointing mechanism can be motorized and also remote controlled, subsequently allowing the camera to point in any direction regardless of where the weapon is pointing. The camera or sensor 20 can also have a 360 degree field of view, and a pan tilt mechanism may not be required. Regardless of whether the camera can be pointed manually, remote controlled or has a 360 degree view capability, it will remain stabilized the same as the weapon because it is on the stabilizing platform. The camera field of view can be depressed or elevated independently of the weapon, and which can be done manually or automated, and which will allow the camera to look at the location where a projectile fired from the weapon would hit, taking into account the curved path of the projectile. The CPU can take this information into account because it is obtaining the weapon's pointing status from sensors on the stabilizing mount which can include but are not limited to encoders, resolvers, synchros or potentiometers located on the motors, the motor drive shafts or framework angle relationship sensors (FARS) which can include proximity sensors, hall sensors or other similar types of sensors which measure the angles between the framework parts. The camera 20 has an antennae 26 for electronic transmissions which can include but are not limited to picture imagery, sensor data, command an control of the camera and stabilizing mount. The camera is controlled in pitch and azimuth by a pan tilt mechanism 22 which can be either hand operator or motorized. The weapon 50 is mounted on a mounting bracket which in this embodiment is a friction head 19 to allow an operator to friction down the motion of the weapon in pitch and azimuth. One purpose of the friction head 19 is to keep a gunner when free ginning, from having their body motions due to vehicle motion transfer to the weapon. Friction tightening the weapon will allow a setting where the gunner can move the weapon, yet the gunner's extraneous movements due to vehicle motion are not significant enough to move the weapon. The friction head sits on bracket 8 which is attached to azimuth motor 18 and which the gunner controls to move the weapon. The friction head motors can be controlled by wire or remote as shown in FIG. 3 wherein the gunner can free-gun the weapon as well as engage the pan tilt actuators 60, which are already part of the stabilizing mount, to lock on target or make calculated or pre-planned moves while allowing the gunner to make corrections. A computer coupled with sensors can do tasks such as seek and locate sniper fire muzzle flash, slew the weapon or provide a coordinate to the gunner, lock on target, all the while keeping the gunner in a hands-on firing mode, with situational awareness greater than if the gunner were in the cab of the host with only limited windows and camera input. In this embodiment, linear actuators 60 are coupled by a gear box 14 to a motor 12 which are positioned upon horizontal base plate 52. This configuration can allow larger motors and actuators than if the motor and actuator are coupled inline.

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.

FIG. 2 b. An operator 28 wears image displaying head gear. The camera or sensor 20 sends it's data or imagery, and receives data and command instructions via wired or wireless transmission, in this figure using antenna 27 for wireless. The goggles 24 can contain a display screen(s) 24 and allows viewing of the real world along with stabilized sensor imagery.

FIG. 2 c. The control box 40, which can also be referred to as an OCU or operator control unit, contains a hard wired and/or wireless capability via antenna 45, to communicate with the stabilizing mount, camera, sensors and/or weapon. Control may include one or more of a joystick 44, control wheels, switches and other control interfaces. A display screen 41 provides the operator with one means of situational awareness which can connect to the camera 20, or other cameras or sensors which can include cameras, ladar, infrared sensors, acoustic sensors or other sensor systems. The gunner can free gun and be hands-on with the weapon and simultaneously viewing camera and sensor data. If the exterior environment becomes too hostile, the operator can move inside the vehicle and use the control box 40 to receive pictures and data to locate, identify, track and engage targets. The stabilizing mount system, the device payloads and the OCU system are preferably compatable with numerous digital interfaces including Ethernet, TCP, UDP, RCP, RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, and JAUS. (Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems.)

FIG. 3 is a side view of a two axis stabilizing mount system with the mounting stud 53 inserted in the receptacle of the A-frame 30 or mounting structure on the turret of a HMMWV. The turret 28 is a revolving structure with a hole, that allows the gunner 31 to stand inside the HMMWV. The weapon can be fixed to the stabilizing mount system with the Y bracket 58, or a friction head such as that shown in FIG. 2 a # 19. The gunner operates the weapon in hands-on mode. The swivel turret 28 allows the gunner to engage targets throughout 360 degrees while the weapon is stabilized from the vehicle pitch and roll. Wired control 18 connects one or more hand or thumb controls 23 to the stabilizing mount thus providing control of the stabilizing mount, weapon and/or sensors. The gunner can also set incremental movements of pitch and azimuth movement so that he can sweep the horizon in one direction, then increment the pitch axis up or down and re-sweep the horizon. This motion can be manual, semi-manual wherein a computer manages some or all of the incremental movements such as 1 mm. sweeps across the horizon, resetting 1 mm. higher and re-sweeping the horizon.

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.

FIG. 4 shows two vehicles 51 with stabilizing mounts and weapons 50. Data from the stabilizing system can be exchanged or provided by wireless 80, or other modes to a command and control center and/or to other vehicles within the battlefield arena. This data, including weapon pointing data can allow friend/foe determinations as well as to lock out live firing on friendly targets. The stabilizing mount's payload devices which can include cameras and sensors and which can combine location and pointing direction when multiple vehicle systems are combined, can give enhanced situational awareness of the surrounding environment which can include location of vehicles, people and objects.

FIG. 5 is a cutaway view of a HMMWV, with the gunner 32, standing on a stabilized standing platform 33. The standing platform, which removes the vehicle's components of pitch and roll, minimizes unwanted vehicle motion affecting the gunner and which could get transmitted by the gunner 32 to the weapon 50. The stabilized standing platform 33 stabilizes like the linear actuator stabilizing system in FIG. 1, wherein the platform has two linear actuators such as FIG. 1 #60 as means for movement and which pivot on a center post such as FIG. 1 # 54. The stabilized standing platform can be a slave device to another stabilizing mount system such as in FIG. 1. The standing platform can maintain the horizon, the apparent gravity or any other operator determined angle.

FIG. 6. This side view shows the stabilizing mount, and an associated chair, which in combination are the device payload. The weapon 50 is attached by mounting bracket 75 which is attached to the chair with an optional footrest. The entire structure mounts into a receptacle 59. The chair center post 76 can also attach to the upper arm bracket 64, by a flange mount, or other mounting configurations dictated by the load and application. There are at least two configurations for stabilizing the combination chair and weapon. 1. The chair and weapon are all attached as a single unit that moves in unison and stays level with the horizon, apparent gravity, or other operator selected angle.

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 FIG. 1 can be separate or attached to mounting bracket 75, however in either mode is stabilizes the weapon such as in FIG. 1. Both stabilization systems can be completely separate stabilization mounts, or both mounts can be slaved from a single sensor package and CPU which operates both the chair and the weapon on the same angles of level, or different angles of level to meet individual stabilized payload requirements.

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.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification89/41.05, 89/41.02
International ClassificationF41G5/06
Cooperative ClassificationF41G3/165, F41A27/30, F41A27/26, F41G3/225, F41G5/14, F41A23/14
European ClassificationF41G3/22B, F41G3/16B, F41G5/14, F41A27/30, F41A23/14, F41A27/26