Circle Optics has developed and patented novel parallax-free, wide field of view (WFOV) multi-camera capture system technology that provides real time, stitch free, panoramic imaging. For this NASA Phase I SBIR project, Circle Optics proposes to develop new optical and mechanical designs for the purpose of satisfying NASA interests in improving air traffic safety. Under Focus Area 19, Integrated Flight Systems, Topic A2.02, Enabling Aircraft Autonomy, NASA and the FAA are seeking technologies to enable intelligent vehicle systems, including new software and hardware sensing and perception technologies. With the goal of enabling piloted vehicles augmented with autonomous capabilities to increase air safety, as well as autonomous unmanned air vehicles, NASA needs a next generation optical imaging and sensing system to address the gaps in situational awareness. In response, Circle Optics proposes to develop an EO/IR visor type sensing system that provides improved detect and avoid sensing in accord with the FAA DO-365B Detect and Avoid MOPS and thus help support NASA’s goals for intelligent vehicle systems. Towards meeting these goals, Circle Optics would engage with both eVTOL and UAV companies, and companies developing detect and avoid hardware and software, to better understand the operational environment and the SWaP-C limitations that may impact such systems. Circle Optics mechanical design efforts will then include lens and system mounting, mechanical and thermal stability, electronic support, and the anticipated assembly fixtures and tools. Circle Optics would also advance the optical design, while focusing on SWaP-C requirements, manufacturability, and mechanical compatibility, to develop a nearly fabrication ready design. As a result, Circle Optics imaging devices can move NASA closer to having the optical sensing capabilities to enable situational awareness and safety for future air vehicles, their drivers or passengers, and their airspace environments.
NASA is collaborating with the FAA to anticipate the future world of urban air mobility by developing standards, and encouraging technical innovation, so eVTOLs and UAVs will be able to travel safely within the national airspace. Once developed, Circle Optics EO/IR sensors may be useful to NASA on vehicles that are used for space, lunar, or extra-planetary navigation and collision avoidance. Similar Circle Optics camera systems may also be useful to NASA in capturing panoramic scenes or photogrammetry during space exploration missions.
The Circle Optics visor system for detect and avoidance EO/IR sensing can be optimized for use on DOD / USAF aircraft to image the airspace to provide situational awareness and search and track functions of potential hostile aircraft. Small commercial drones or UAVs will likely need similar optical detection, avoidance, and navigation imaging, but with a smaller SWaP-C than needed for eVTOLs.