The RT-INSPEX will directly support NASA's future missions ranging from the exploration of remote planetary surfaces (assuming very limited and time-delayed Earth-based communication) to assistive operations in man-made structures such as the International Space Station (ISS). The pervasive use of intelligent robotics with accurate navigation capabilities will enhance exploration and facilitate mapping of uncharted regions. This particularly benefits planetary exploration mobile robotic platforms such as the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Mars Rovers. Another application would be the 'K10' series from the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group. However, the very flexible and modular nature of the system and software lends itself to operation in indoor environments as well such as the case with the Robonaut 2 at the ISS. For instance, the RT-INSPEX can be used to help obtain an autonomous understanding of the Robonaut's surroundings such as identifying important objects that should be avoided or interacted with, and to facilitate navigation along corridors without relying on any type of external guidance.
One of the main objectives of this SBIR is the commercialization of the research results. The RT-INSPEX is a highly useful system for GNSS-free robotic navigation and environment understanding and therefore presents significant application potential for a wide range of non-NASA systems within both the civilian and military sectors. The technology is closely aligned with developments related to self-driving vehicles, where the ability to classify terrain, objects, etc. is very important for collision avoidance and navigation along roads. The capability of localization without GNSS using vision can be used to know one's position in consumer applications when GPS is not available or intermittent. Further areas the technology would find application in include: (1) commercially available and military based personnel tracking devices; (2) GPS-free navigation for both manned and unmanned ground, air, and sea vehicles; (3) military missions involving unmanned platforms; (4) accurate floor plan mapping of GPS-denied indoor environments that pose a risk for human intervention; (5) robotic surveillance applications; (6) aiding search and rescue missions; and (7) local law enforcement agencies for detecting the locations of harmful objects.