Animals, such as Savannah sparrows and North American monarch butterflies, are able to obtain compass information from skylight polarization patterns to help them navigate effectively and robustly. Inspired by excellent navigation ability of animals, this paper proposes a novel image-based polarized light compass, which has the advantages of having a small size and being light weight. Firstly, the polarized light compass, which is composed of a Charge Coupled Device (CCD) camera, a pixelated polarizer array and a wide-angle lens, is introduced. Secondly, the measurement method of a skylight polarization pattern and the orientation method based on a single scattering Rayleigh model are presented. Thirdly, the error model of the sensor, mainly including the response error of CCD pixels and the installation error of the pixelated polarizer, is established. A calibration method based on iterative least squares estimation is proposed. In the outdoor environment, the skylight polarization pattern can be measured in real time by our sensor. The orientation accuracy of the sensor increases with the decrease of the solar elevation angle, and the standard deviation of orientation error is
at sunset. Results of outdoor experiments show that the proposed polarization navigation sensor can be used for outdoor autonomous navigation.
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