Entry Date:
January 22, 2019

Navion: An Energy-Efficient Accelerator for NanoDrones Autonomous Navigation in GPS-Denied Environments

Principal Investigator Vivienne Sze

Co-investigator Sertac Karaman

Drones are getting increasingly popular nowadays. Nanodrones specifically are easily portable and can fit in your pocket. Equipped with multiple sensors; the drone functionality is getting more powerful and smart (e.g., track objects, build 3-D maps, etc.). These capabilities can be enabled by powerful computing plat- forms (CPUs and GPUs), which consume a lot of energy. The size and battery limitations of Nanodrones make it prohibitive to deploy.

This work presents Navion, an energy-efficient accelerator for visual-inertial odometry (VIO) that enables autonomous navigation of miniaturized robots, and augmented reality on portable devices. The chip fuses inertial measurements and mono/stereo images to estimate the camera’s trajectory and a sparse 3-D map. VIO implementation requires large irregularly structured memories and heterogeneous computation flow. The entire VIO system is fully integrated on-chip to eliminate costly off-chip processing and storage. This work uses compression and exploits structured and unstructured sparsity to reduce on-chip memory size by 4.1x. Navion is fabricated in 65nm CMOS. It can process 752x480 stereo images at 171 fps and inertial measurements at 52 kHz, consuming an average 24mW. It is configurable for maximizing accuracy, throughput, and energy-efficiency across different environments. This is the first fully integrated VIO in an ASIC.