Unmanned vehicles (UVs) are seeing more widespread use in military, scientific, and civil sectors in recent years. These UVs range from unmanned air and ground vehicles to surface and underwater vehicles. Each of these different UVs has its own inherent strengths and weaknesses, from payload to freedom of movement. Research in this field is growing primarily because of the National Defense Act of 2001 mandating that one-third of all military vehicles be unmanned by 2015. Research using small UVs, in particular, is a growing because small UVs can go places that may be too dangerous for humans. Because of the limitations inherent in small UVs, including power consumption and payload, the selection of light weight and low power sensors and processors becomes critical. Low power CMOS cameras and real-time vision processing algorithms can provide fast and reliable information to the UVs. These vision algorithms often require computational power that limits their use in traditional general purpose processors using conventional software. The latest developments in field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) provide an alternative for hardware and software co-design of complicated real-time vision algorithms. By tracking features from one frame to another, it becomes possible to perform many different high-level vision tasks, including object tracking and following. This thesis describes a vision guidance system for unmanned vehicles in general and the FPGA hardware implementation that operates vision tasks in real-time. This guidance system uses an object following algorithm to provide information that allows the UV to follow a target. The heart of the object following algorithm is real-time rank transform, which transforms the image into a more robust image that maintains the edges found in the original image. A minimum sum of absolute differences algorithm is used to determine the best correlation between frames, and the output of this correlation is used to update the tracking of the moving target. Control code can use this information to move the UV in pursuit of a moving target such as another vehicle.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





semi autonomous, unmanned vehicle, rank transform, correlation, FPGA implementation, Robotic Vision Lab