Urban Sky is an aerospace startup that has developed an innovative reusable high-altitude balloon vehicle with the novel ability to launch from virtually anywhere at any time with minimal personnel. This flight platform can be coupled with sensors to thermally and optically survey wide swaths of land without creating a conflict with Temporary Restricted Airspace. Our approach targets identified NASA needs for improved air quality monitoring and modeling data inputs, especially from wildfires where current monitoring technologies are unable to collect timely, high resolution data due to conflicts with firefighting aircraft. Our system is capable of collecting measurements that support current air quality model validation, improve surface-based remote sensing networks, and in particular augment the NASA FIREX-AQ Airborne Science Program campaign.
Our proposed SBIR Phase I work involves the development and demonstration of a rapidly deployable, high-altitude flight system coupled with state-of-the-art long-wave infrared (LWIR) and visual RGB sensors for collecting high-spatial resolution data over broad, remote areas affected by wild and agricultural fires. We will provide highly resolved measurements of burn temperature, composition of burned material, and smoke signals above active fires. The combination of high-spatial resolution RGB and LWIR data above fires will enable research investigating the correlation between wildfires and resulting air quality. Through direct measures of burning biomass intensity, density and composition, our data will augment air quality prediction models while supporting operational real-time firefighting. Urban Sky will deliver a TRL 6 sensor/platform prototype capable of operational flight and data collection over demonstration areas. Each fully operational system is estimated to cost just a few tens of thousands of dollars, each of which is reusable and capable of covering over 3,000 sq. km per mission within just hours of deployment.
This high-altitude, broad area thermal and optical remote sensing vehicle has the potential to support and augment a variety of NASA programs and missions by providing a low-cost, rapidly deployable airborne system for capturing data in higher spatial resolution than existing platforms.
The proposed system has wide commercial and civil-government related applications. A rapidly deployable situational awareness vehicle capable of covering broad, large areas in thermal and optical high-resolution would be of significant interest to first responders and emergency management personnel and agencies, oil & gas exploration and production companies and regulatory bodies.