NASA picks vision sensor for Martian UAV

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 10 August 2005. OmniVision Technologies, Inc. announced that it is collaborating with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to supply image sensors for the Picosat and Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Systems Engineering (PAUSE) Mars prototype aerobot project.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., 10 August 2005. OmniVision Technologies, Inc. announced that it is collaborating with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to supply image sensors for the Picosat and Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Systems Engineering (PAUSE) Mars prototype aerobot project.

PAUSE aerobots are unmanned scientific exploration vehicles (airborne robots) designed to float like balloons for up to several months in the atmosphere of planets and moons, as they conduct sophisticated observational programs.

This aerobot consists of a zero-pressure balloon and a prototype Mars aerobot science micro-gondola, which includes three OmniVision imagers, multiple temperature sensors, a pressure sensor, a GPS receiver, a 1Gigabyte data storage device, and a radio modem.

OmniVision will supply CameraChips to be used in onboard imaging systems. Those sensors will take images down, to the side and up. The gondola is lightweight (3.3 kg/7.25 lbs) and consumes little power (~3 watts). The aerobot was recently deployed twice in the Earth's stratosphere at 35 kilometers (21.9 miles) to simulate the environment on Mars. For more information, see http://robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/~behar/PAUSE/PAUSE.html.

In a second announcement, OmniVision also announced that it is supporting the Angstrom Aerospace Corp. (AAC) in Uppsala, Sweden with imagers for the first micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) enabled nanosatellite, the MicroLink Nanosatellite project.

"OmniVision is very proud to participate in these projects because it underscores the company's ability to provide camera chips that will meet the stringent requirements for these highly demanding applications," said Jess Lee, product marketing director at OmniVision Technologies. "We believe that our ability to deliver CMOS image sensors with an extremely small footprint and very low power consumption were key factors in getting selected for these space projects."

MicroLink-1 (formerly called NanoSpace-1) is a nanosatellite weighing less than 10 kilograms. A 2009 mission will launch a microsatellite and a nanosatellite together, then separate them in orbit.

Onboard the spacecraft, OmniVision sensors will be used to take images of Earth and to monitor the satellite separation. The sensors will be packaged into ultra-miniaturized MultiChip-Modules (MCM) reducing the overall camera size by an order of magnitude over current state of the art imaging technologies.

MicroLink-1 is currently under development at the Angstrom Aerospace Corp., which will commercialize the research performed there. NanoSpace studies are funded by the Swedish National Space Board. For more information, see www.aaerospace.com or www.micro-link.se.

OmniVision Technologies, Inc. designs and markets high-performance semiconductor image sensors. Its OmniPixel and CameraChip products are highly integrated single-chip CMOS image sensors for mass-market consumer and commercial applications such as mobile phones, digital still cameras, security and surveillance systems, interactive video games, PCs and automotive imaging systems. For more information, see www.ovt.com.

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