Project Summary

Proposal Number:

Project Title:Tunable Laser Instrument for Atmospheric Sensing on Robotic Aircraft

Small Business Concern:
Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.
9950 Wakeman Drive
Manassas, VA 22111

Research Institution:
Physics Department
West Virginia University
617 N. Spruce Street
P.O. Box 6845
Morgantown, WV 26506

Principal Investigator/Project Manager: Ngoc Hoang, Ph.D.

Technical Abstract:
The basis for the proposed cooperative R&D effort is a differential absorption lidar (DIAL) technology using advanced materials developed by West Virginia University. The small business concern, Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., proposes to develop, in cooperation with West Virginia University (WVU), an airborne DIAL instrument to measure greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere and characterize tropospheric chemistry. This system will provide high- accuracy data to complement early EOS-era satellite measurements, and will provide calibration and verification for the CHEM platform, to be launched in 2002. This proposal addresses Phase I of that effort, which will consist of DIAL performance simulations, mission planning, and airborne instrument and interface design. The airborne system, to be built and flown in Phase II, will not only support verification and calibration of EOS satellites using NASA- funded high-altitude UAVs, but will also make unique, NASA- sponsored laser materials technology available for the atmospheric sensing community and other applications. These applications include portable systems for pollution monitoring and environmental regulation enforcement.

Potential Commercial Applications:
The primary application for the field-deployable, solid- state DIAL system for robotic aircraft will be NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. At present, a fleet of 10_12 Theseus aircraft are envisioned to support calibration and validation of EOS measurements and to provide higher resolution, higher accuracy, localized data on particular phenomena of interest. Also, the capability of the DIAL system, combined with the range and endurance of the Theseus robotic aircraft, may provide a perfect complement for treaty verification applications ranging from chemical weapons (Open Skies) to environmental issues (NAFTA). The airborne DIAL system can be flown to assess compliance with environmental regulations, such as the 1990 Clean Air Act. A portable DIAL instrument could be used for ground measurements as well. Certain industries, such as power plants, may acquire the ground-based instrument or contract for airborne data collection to establish trends in emissions. This information can assist with self-regulation and provide proof of emission levels.