New Rafael system helps vehicles navigate in GPS-denied environments

JERUSALEM — Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has created a system that combines vehicle-mounted cameras with 3D models and mapping algorithms to help manned and unmanned vehicles operate in GPS-denied environments.

Developed over the last several years, CT-MENTOR combines the Israeli company’s existing innovations for a vehicle suite as part of the Carmel program for an armored fighting vehicle of the future with its work on electro-optics for the Spike and Spice missiles.

Militaries are increasingly seeking ways to overcome adversarial jamming. The U.S. Army, for example, opened an office in September to study the challenge, but the service has been working on the issue for several years. The Defense Department further stressed this need for positioning, navigation and timing solutions in 2019. The year before, BAE Systems said it was developing ammunition that can operate in GPS-denied environments.

CT-MENTOR is based on a 3D model database that matches points with a “cloud” of points such that the vehicle on the ground, using cameras, matches the points it sees with those that correspond to those scanned from above.

The system takes its data from a variety of platforms, including UAVs, air surveillance and space assets, building the 3D model for the vehicle. Video of how the system works shows a vehicle moving through a neighborhood. Instead of just seeing a house and balconies, the cameras see points on the balcony that correspond to a 3D model.

Shmulik Olanski, who leads Rafael’s land warfare innovation center and spent three decades in the Israel Defense Forces’ Armored Corps, said the navigational challenge facing vehicles has to do with situational awareness.

“[The commander] needs to know where he is and what is around, and the commander in the command post needs to understand where the various forces are and do targeting procedures and lines of operation and to confront enemies in complex environments,” Olanski told Defense News.