NASA SBIR 2012 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 12-1 S3.05-8971
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Unmanned Aircraft and Sounding Rocket Technologies
PROPOSAL TITLE: Soil Moisture Mapping sUAS

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Black Swift Technologies LLC
2727 Folsom St. Unit 313
Boulder, CO 80304 - 3757
(720) 933-4503

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Maciej Stachura
2727 Folsom St. Unit 313
Boulder, CO 80304 - 3757
(720) 335-7558

CORPORATE/BUSINESS OFFICIAL (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Jack Elston
2727 Folsom St. Unit 313
Boulder, CO 80304 - 3757
(720) 933-4503

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 6

Technology Available (TAV) Subtopics
Unmanned Aircraft and Sounding Rocket Technologies is a Technology Available (TAV) subtopic that includes NASA Intellectual Property (IP). Do you plan to use the NASA IP under the award?

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
The overall technical goal of this SBIR is the development of a commercially viable, small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) with a passive microwave sensor to enable high resolution mapping of soil moisture content. Current remote-sensing methods for sampling soil moisture often fail to provide measurements with adequate spatial and temporal resolution, or any indication of moisture content at typical root depths. This work involves the integration of existing sensor, airframe, and autopilot technologies to construct a novel sensing platform. The scientific payload will be a passive microwave sensor in the L-band to map soil moisture content. The airframe utilized is the Tempest, originally designed for sampling tornadic thunderstorms and is a robust, easy to operate design that can takeoff and land on unimproved surfaces. The avionics will be based on the SwiftPilot system which consists of an autopilot board, wireless link for communication, command and control, ground station, and tablet based user interface. The SwiftPilot system provides a simple, intuitive interface for conducting sUAS missions making it ideal for scientific applications. Tight integration of the sensor with the sUAS avionics and airframe will enable precise flight control for low altitude missions in the range of 15m-30m above ground level (AGL) enabling the sensor to accurately map soil moisture with a resolution approaching 15m. The PI's working knowledge of the regulatory environment surrounding sUAS will be used to inform the development of the system and associated concept of operations. This will facilitate operation in the national airspace following FAA approval. The technical goal of this Phase I proposal is to design the interfaces; mechanical, electrical, and software required for integration of the sUAS. This will include the design of experiments for testing and validating this unique sensing platform in Phase II to assess the the performance in the desired scientific missions.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
Two applications have been identified that build upon the results from prior NASA projects where small UAS were not used as a delivery platform. The use of remote-sensing techniques to measure soil moisture is well established in a number of scientific disciplines such as hydrology and environmental studies among others. The NASA systems typically used in the past for this purpose focus on satellite based systems such as the AMSR-E radiometers mounted on the EOS Aqua satellite, and the C and X band radiometers specified for the HYDROS mission. A sUAS system carrying similar radiometers will be able to improve on both the spatial and temporal resolution achievable through satellite based measurements. Furthermore, sensing at low altitudes enables the use of lower frequency radiometers (e.g. L band) that can penetrate deeper. This has the advantage of providing soil moisture measurements less likely to be confounded by canopy moisture. sUAS based systems can also complement data obtained from manned aircraft missions. Dr. Gasiewksi previously led a NASA funded research effort at the University of Colorado Center for Environmental Technology (CET) to map soil moisture in a region of North Texas and Oklahoma that suffered from severe flooding. A P-3B aircraft operating a Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer (PSR) was used for this purpose. The proposed technology will be able to replicate the capabilities and validate the results of the CET mission at a fraction of the cost.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The sensor-bed on the proposed technology can be used for a host of non-NASA applications such as land cover mapping, soil content characterization, water table analysis, and drought management among others. Given the current FAA regulations restricting commercial UAS usage in the NAS, potential lead users are currently limited to the public sector. As a preliminary application domain the focus will be on by providing comprehensive information for drought management. This will be achieved by collaborating with of the Colorado State University Agricultural Extension Service located in close proximity to our facilities. This public entity has a well-established, reputable research and consulting mandate targeted at providing actionable information to end-users in the agricultural market. The distribution network of its consulting arm is an attractive and convenient mechanism to deploy the technology, once developed. To-date, preliminary interviews have been conducted by Black Swift Technologies with both the Agricultural Extension Service and the Colorado Department of Agriculture to identify the crop varieties and geographic domains where targeted data gathering on water management and application would be most useful.

TECHNOLOGY TAXONOMY MAPPING (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.)
Algorithms/Control Software & Systems (see also Autonomous Systems)
Autonomous Control (see also Control & Monitoring)
Data Acquisition (see also Sensors)
Vehicles (see also Autonomous Systems)

Form Generated on 03-28-13 15:21