NASA SBIR 2006 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 06-2 A1.06-9659
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Aviation External Hazard Sensor Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE: NIR LIDAR for Hazard Mitigation

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
RL Associates, Inc.
1350 Edgmont Avenue, Suite 2300
Chester, PA 19013 - 3940
(610) 499-7529

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Richard Billmers
1450 Edgmont Avenue, Suite 230
Chester, PA 19013 - 3934
(610) 499-7529

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
We have investigated the feasibility of employing a hazard detection and mitigation system based upon a polarization discriminating range-gated Lidar system. This dual use system will be capable of both imaging targets in low visibility scenarios, such as smoke, fog, haze, light rain, and low light levels, and providing an early warning of in-flight hazards, primarily icing conditions in clouds. The polarization discriminating optical system and accompanying image processing software are capable of differentiating highly depolarizing surfaces from those that contribute little to depolarization. Examples of this type of differentiation include water and ice phases in clouds and hard-target surfaces surrounded by an aerosol particulate media. The NIR Lidar system is designed to operate around 1.5 m for maximum eye-safety, even when used from the ground. Major components of the Lidar unit include a laser transmitter, a fast gated detector, and polarization switching components. The performance of this type of system has been demonstrated in the Phase I project in laboratory experiments using custom built rain and fog generating chambers. Both image enhancement of a hard target and detection differing depolarization ratios were demonstrated. Backscattered noise from obscurants is greatly reduced by the fast-gated camera system, and a narrowband optical filter provides additional noise rejection. The NIR Lidar system can be easily integrated with a database of common object types for identification of hard targets, such as obstacles on a runway. Illuminated NIR imagery is ideal for providing images of hard targets, as object detail is very near that seen with a visible camera, unlike FLIR (forward-looking infrared) imagery, and the performance is equivalent in day or night conditions.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Visualization through common obscurants such as fog, rain, smoke, and haze represents a difficulty for many industries as well as the military. As a result, the ability to add or enhance such visualization would have significant applications in commercial aviation, transportation and shipping, military surveillance and targeting systems, as well as law-enforcement and other related industries. These potential applications have already been studied, and the current visualization issues that they are facing are being identified, so that continued development of the current RL Associates program may address these issues. Key potential non-NASA customers/programs therefore appear to be commercial and military aircraft manufacturers (Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman), shipping builders (Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Kaverner, etc), shipping lines, cruise ship companies, automobile manufacturers, and the Department of Defense (DOD). Several branches of the DOD have systems which stand to benefit from this proposed hazard detection technology. Parties this technology targets include the Missile Defense Agency, for missile guidance systems, NavAir, for both airborne reconnaissance LIDAR applications and targeting systems, and Homeland Security, for in-port or aerial surveillance systems.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Successful development of the NIR Lidar technology will fill NASA needs in programs requiring atmospheric hazard detection, surveillance, hazard assessment and imaging through obscurants. While system parameters of the planned prototype would make incorporation somewhat limited at this time, within the next 20 years, the FAA expects air traffic operations to increase by 150-250%. To meet the demands of this high traffic environment, the Next Generation of Aviation Transportation Systems (NGATS/"NexGen") will require significantly improved hazard mitigation systems both for ground-level and in-flight hazards. NexGen systems will constitute perhaps the largest and most important NASA application. The NexGen vision calls for new capabilities that would substantially increase the capacity, with safety and efficiency, of the National Air-Space System (NAS). Specific capabilities that are viewed as critical to the success of NexGen are Equivalent Vision Operations, which will allow the system to maintain visual flight rule capacities in instrument flight conditions, and Broad-Area Precision Navigation, which allows precise navigation anywhere in the airspace, including precision landing at any airport. The RL Associates Hazard Mitigating Lidar System addresses both of these capabilities by placing a high priority on rapid and accurate hazard detection.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Guidance, Navigation, and Control
Pilot Support Systems

Form Generated on 08-02-07 14:39