Near Earth Autonomy proposes to extend the NASA SBIR Phase I to develop the key technologies that enable urban air mobility (UAM) and its applications: delivery of goods, personal transportation, emergency/disaster response, etc. This work will contribute to advance NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) program, which focuses on “enabling emerging aviation markets that will provide substantial benefit to the U.S. public and industry.” In addition to serving the needs of the UAM market, our proposal builds fundamental technologies that can be used to address the needs of Simplified Vehicle Operation (SVO) as identified by the AAM program. By enabling intuitive safe operation, SVO can bridge the gap between the high skill level needed to operate fully manual aircraft and fully autonomous aircraft that have a long certification process to be operational.
Successful integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system (NAS), especially in urban environments, will require technologies that enable UAS to fly safely and are able to manage contingencies without resorting to remote pilots to guide them. This work will address three primary challenges related to this topic: (1) GPS-denied navigation must deal with complex, dynamic environments, (2) safe landing requires consideration of dynamic objects on the ground, and (3) critical component failure during flight requiring a rapid response for the aircraft to land safely.
In Phase I we demonstrated the feasibility of the baseline technologies in a series of flight tests using a small unmanned aircraft and a full-size helicopter, including GPS-free aircraft localization over an 11-km flight over urban terrain. In Phase II we will further develop and mature the technologies and demonstrate them in flight on a self-contained sensing and computing payload. In Phase II we will also pursue various commercialization channels based on our existing relationships with aerospace and avionics manufacturers.
Technology that enables autonomous and safe unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations in complex, dynamic urban environments over long periods of time will contribute to NASA's testing related to UAS operations in the NAS. The technology specified in this solicitation will enable NASA and any of its contractors involved with other UAS programs to accomplish testing with increased safety and decreased cost. The technology may also enable improved atmospheric and climate research missions.
Other government and civilian agencies comprise a significant market for the technology. The commercial UAS market is forecast to grow rapidly after the FAA establishes regulatory procedures for the operation of UAS in the national airspace system. An enhanced capability for safe, autonomous long-term operations of UAS in complex, dynamic environments will fuel the market's forecast growth.