NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-F5.02-8101 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 034906)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Robotics for Crew Assistance, and for On-orbit/Planetary Assembly, Maintenance and Servicing
PROPOSAL TITLE:Panoramic Stereoscopic Video System for Remote-Controlled Robotic Space Operations

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Advanced Fuel Research Inc
87 Church Street
East Hartford ,CT 06108 - 3728
(860) 528 - 9806

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
James J. Scire, Jr.
87 Church Street
East Hartford ,CT  06108 -3728
(860) 528 - 9806
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

This Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of providing panoramic stereoscopic images for remote-controlled robotic space operations using three fixed-position cameras. Remote-controlled robot operations are an important element in orbital and planetary space missions. Advanced display systems can greatly enhance the effectiveness of these operations. In the system proposed here, human operators will be immersed in a virtual environment composed of a mosaic of stereoscopically encoded images. The operators will readily view 3-dimensional images of the robot?s workspace over a full hemisphere. The panoramic stereoscopic imaging will be achieved through an innovative optical design, employing three of NASA?s Panoramic Refracting Optics, each providing a hemispherical view to one camera. The proposed system will be simple, lightweight, energy efficient, and will contain no moving parts. It will therefore be compatible with space launch and environmental requirements. The proposed system will increase the effectiveness of NASA?s robotic operations during orbital and planetary missions, and directly addresses the subtopic need to ?improve the robotic teleoperator?s efficiency through advanced display systems.?

The product of Phases I and II will find numerous applications in NASA programs. The hemispherical stereoscopic viewing can be utilized in any situation where human operators are remotely operating equipment. This includes the operation of remote controlled robots and the maneuvering of spacecraft during docking operations. Other applications for the imaging system will be in planetary exploration, where the proposed imaging system will be compact and rugged enough to be carried by rovers during surveying missions. The system will enable operators or image processing algorithms to quickly locate objects or locations of interest without using a rotating camera mount.

The non-NASA applications are also numerous. Remote-controlled robots are often used in inhospitable work environments, such as in the disposal of bombs, the handling of radioactive materials, and the handling of objects in inert/vacuum environments. The lack of moving parts in the imaging system and the ability to seal it against contamination are features that make it ideal for many of these applications. Surveying applications also abound in the commercial/private sector, where the system could be mounted to robots and used in operations such as search and rescue (e.g. in collapsed structures), crime scene searches, and terrain or cavern mapping.