NASA SBIR 2004 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 04 E3.01-9496
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Automation and Planning
PROPOSAL TITLE: Easy-to-Use UAV Ground Station Software for Low-Altitude Civil Operations

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Seagull Technology Inc
1700 Dell Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008-6902

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Gregory C Carr
1700 Dell Ave.
Campbell, CA 95008-6902

We propose to design and develop easy-to-use Ground Control Station (GCS) software for low-altitude civil Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations. The GCS software will allow a UAV user to 1) specify the mission in the user's language, rather than the traditional jargon of mission and flight plan-ning, and 2) execute the mission without relying on additional personnel who have specialized piloting skills. The user specifies the mission through a combination of natural-language instructions and graphi-cal interfaces, and the GCS software translates the user instructions into a mission plan that is executed autonomously. This innovation will enable a paradigm shift in UAV operations by freeing end users from their dependency on expert operators to fulfill the mission. The proposed Phase I work focuses on requirements analysis and the design and demonstration of a prototype GCS User Interface. We will also develop a plan for a Phase II effort to further develop and demonstrate the GCS software with an existing UAV platform for a specific application. This research directly addresses the NASA Earth Science Enterprise requirement for Automation and Planning technologies that "allow either spacecraft or ground systems to robustly perform complex tasks given high-level goals with minimal human direction."

NASA envisions that the results of the AIST topic work will "reduce the risk, cost, size, and development time of ESE space-based and ground-based information systems." The development of easy-to-use UAV GCS software directly addresses the requirements and goals of the AIST Topic. This innovative technol-ogy could substantially reduce the risks and costs associated with both the development and use of UAVs for observation and measurement. The software technology would be of immediate value to a number of the Earth Science Enterprise national applications including Agricultural Efficiency, Air Quality, Avia-tion, Disaster Management, and Homeland Security.

A significant market exists for low-cost UAV systems for non-military applications ranging from wildfire fighting to traffic surveillance to crop spraying. A number of UAV technologies have been designed and developed to meet the demands of these civil applications. These include small and "low-cost" fixed-wing and rotorcraft UAV platforms, CNS technologies, and mission planning applications. In most existing UAV systems, the Ground Control Station (GCS) software and hardware require highly special-ized skills to plan and execute a mission. An analysis of the marketplace indicates that there is a need for easy-to-use ground stations for both commercial and scientific applications.