NASA SBIR 2007 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 07-2 X7.03-8844
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Surface Mobility and Transportation
PROPOSAL TITLE: A 3-D Miniature LIDAR System for Mobile Robot Navigation

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Honeybee Robotics Ltd.
460 W 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7802

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Michael Rutberg
460 West 34th Street
New York, NY 10001 - 2320
(646) 459-7830

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4 to 5

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Future lunar site operations will benefit from mobile robots, both autonomous and tele-operated, that complement or replace human extravehicular activity. Three-dimensional sensing technology is at the heart of such functionality, enabling reliable navigation in complex, dynamic environments, and serving as a valuable tool for inspection and site survey.

Honeybee Robotics is therefore developing a small-envelope, high-performance scanning LIDAR system, geared primarily towards robotic navigation and secondarily to site inspection and survey. The proposed Phase II will draw on the results of a DARPA-funded design study and Phase I of this effort, which resulted in successful proof-of-concept, as well as testbeds and proprietary software tools.

The Honeybee 3D Miniature LIDAR (3DML) uses a novel scanning mechanism in conjunction with a pulse-time-of-flight optical rangefinding subsystem. The 3DML architecture, developed with expert input from Sensor Designs, an electro-optical systems consultancy, achieves wide field of view and high resolution while maintaining ultra-compact package size.

The proposed Phase II will include development of a functional brassboard system prototype and its integration and test on a K10 research rover. Phase III will pursue a multi-pronged commercialization effort, including preflight development, production of a unit for terrestrial research, and incorporation of 3DML into a flight program.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
The Honeybee 3DML is ideally suited to mobile robotic platform navigation, thanks to the wide field of view and high angular resolution. A key long-term goal is to produce flight units for NASA's Lunar Surface Systems, to facilitate robotic site operations support. In addition to rover navigation, a flight 3DML could be employed as a sensor for lunar vehicle and structure inspection. Adding long-range survey capability would result in an all-in-one navigation/inspection/survey sensor. Whether autonomous, teleoperated, or even manned, lunar mobile platforms will require 3D sensing to perform safely and effectively.

Rover missions for Mars exploration could also make use of a compact, robust 3D LIDAR system. Future Mars rovers, including the AFL, the Mid-size Rovers, and the MSR rover, will be developed to increasingly sophisticated levels of automation, and will demand sophisticated sensor facilities.

In the much nearer term, terrestrial 3DML units can be used for robotic research at NASA centers. The functional brassboard resulting from this Phase II effort will be delivered to Ames Research Center's Intelligent Robotics Group for continued use on their K10 test rovers. An 3DML trial on a K10 at a Moses Lake field test has also been discussed. Following a short development iteration, similar units for terrestrial research will be ready for sale to robotics labs in NASA and academia.

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
This technology enjoys broad commercialization potential due to the very basic need for 3D vision that it satisfies. An immediately targeted market is military robotics, where 3DML will be an enabling technology for greater autonomy and easier navigation and operations. Given the high performance and relatively low cost of the sensor, this technology is also more broadly applicable to general ground robotics. This includes hazmat response and search-and-rescue, but also mining, agricultural and industrial automation, such as sensors for unmanned forklifts on a factory floor. The primary competitor to the 3DML technology is solid state "flash" LIDAR systems. While attractive for certain applications, flash LIDAR lacks the high resolution and flexibility of 3DML. Compared to the current and projected state of the art of flash systems, 3DML promises to achieve higher performance at lower cost. The 3DML architecture can be scaled down to a much lower-cost version by reducing the demands on the optomechanical and electro-optical subsystems, permitting incorporation into many consumer and commercial devices. For automotoves, a low-resolution version of 3DML could be used for blind-spot or guardrail warning systems. Home automation systems, smart appliances, and domestic robots like iRobot's Roomba and Scooba cleaners, could all benefit from low-cost, low-resolution 3D vision provided by 3DML.

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.

Human-Robotic Interfaces
Integrated Robotic Concepts and Systems

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