Photogrammetry Based Ranging
This project is one of the more aggressive undertakings I have set out to pursue. Long term, I intend to set up a remote-controlled astronomical observatory on my property.
In the short term, however, I am going to construct two remote-controlled smaller but nevertheless precision telescopes with integrated CCD cameras in order to do range and heading measurements of high-flying aircraft in the air space above where I live. Of course such an activity must be noninvasive (no active sensors like radar or lasers!). Perfecting this instrumentation during daylight hours will serve as a prelude to making LEO and MEO earth satellite measurements at night time for my other orbit calculation interests.
You must look very carefully at the photo to the left in order to see the small aircraft in the picture. A close-up of this jet is shown in the picture below.
As already mentioned, the measurement instrumentation will consist of two precision telescopes which will be trained on the aircraft over head. Precision triangulation and image cross-correlations at the pixel level will be used to construct a mathematical model for the plane’s position and velocity vector.
Simultaneously directing two telescopes to simultaneously track a moving aircraft over head is a challenging task when faced with a finite budget! Calibrating the two telescopes (which will be separated by several hundred feet) could be fairly daunting- if it were not for my interest in astronomy. Calibration of the two optical systems will be done at night by making use of the star fields each telescope will see as a function of its respective right-ascension and declination settings. So long as the telescope mounts provide good pointing repeatability, this approach should solve what would otherwise be a very difficult problem.
Part I of this journey written about here.