Project takes automotive AI chips into space

July 07, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Project takes automotive AI chips into space
AImotive and C3S in Hungary are using automotive chips to add artificial intelligence (AI) to low cost satellites in space

Hungarian automotive AI specialist AImotive is working on a prototype hardware platform to add artificial intelligence (AI) to space satellites. The chips already developed for automotive designs will work well with low cost, high volume satellites in Low Earth Orbit, says Tony King-Smith from the company.

The partnership with local space technology company C3S will see the chips in commercial space applications by the end of next year for telecommunications, Earth and space observation, autonomous satellite operation and docking support. Satellite operators such as OneWeb and SpaceX are planning to launch tens of thousands of such satellites over the next decade and companies such as Planet already run satellite imaging services for smart agriculture.

AImotive has been developing neural networks  on automotive-grade hardware platforms for over four years and the same machine learning algorithms are well suited to the image recognition and decision making, says King-Smith. The designs are constrained by the power budget, memory size and communications bandwidth, and AI can help with all of these constraints by making decisions locally, he says.

“The work we are doing at the moment is studying the application to understand where the technology can best be used and what sort of characteristics of an AI engine make sense,” he said.

Xilinx last month launched an FPGA fto add AI to space system designs, but this is aimed at larger, geostationary satellites: FPGA PUTS AI IN ORBIT 

The automotive qualification is suitable for LEO satellite designs, he says. “We are now looking for a bigger temperature range -40°C to +105°C and that’s helpful in any satellite with formal safety and this is all leading to take existing automotive chips and putting them into space,” he said. “For example the Apache 5 chip from NextChip in Korea is nicely on target for the end of the year and you could use that in a satellite.”

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