NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 03- II F5.02-9427
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Robotics for Crew Assistance, and for On-orbit/Planetary Assembly, Maintenance and Servicing
PROPOSAL TITLE: SmartTopo Intelligent Real-Time Topographic Information Collection System

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Carolyn Galceran
1318 Ridgecrest Place S.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87108-5136
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

The SmartTopo SBIR phase I program resulted in the creation of the first technology designed to provide robotic vehicles with the ability to "learn and remember" the terrain over which they travel. The SmartTopo software system is designed to be portable and robust so that it can be used by NASA in a variety of general and embedded applications. It will be used in robotic inspection of spacecraft on-orbit, making re-entry safer for manned spacecraft. It will also improve the safety of air travel by producing a new type of aircraft altimeter which will tell the pilot the true position of the aircraft above the ground. A vehicle (aircraft, spacecraft, satellite, planetary rover or submersible) is sent forth with an internal digital map of the topography of an area to explore. As exploration proceeds sensors (video cameras for example) on the explorer will collect data as always, but now the SmartTopo software will process the data and update the original digital map data in real time, resulting in a higher resolution topographic model of the surface that it has surveyed. RIS has developed and demonstrated the key elements of this technology during Phase I.

The largest commercial marker for this technology will be UAV manufacturers, because of its potential to both improve safety of flight as well as its ability to rapidly created detailed terrain models for surveyed areas. RIS has been working with numerous UAV manufacturers including General Atomics, AAI, BAI, Titan Systems, and Geneva Aero), many of whom license other RIS software products. Adopting SmartTopo will be a natural extension of the excellent business relationships that we have in place. RIS has already received strong interest from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, ADUSD CDR Thomas Moore, who is keenly interested in seeing this technology applied to submersible vehicles.

Robotic exploration vehicles will use this technology to navigate planets and asteroids for which high resolution topographic data may be unavailable. SmartTopo will allow these vehicles to navigate these place where GPS may be unavailable. Future generations of Space Planes, the successors to the Space Shuttle will use SmartTopo to inspect heat shield surfaces prior to re-entry to ensure surface integrity. These craft will also use SmartTopo as a back up to RADAR altimeter technology during landing phase. These applications will fuel commercial space adoption of the SmartCam3D technology.