NASA 1996 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER : 96-1 13.07-3633

PROJECT TITLE : Airborne Tunable Differential Absoption Lidar Systems

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

The basis for the proposed effort is an airborne tunable differential absorption lidar (DIAL) technology using advanced materials developed by West Virginia University. Airborne tunable differential absorption lidar systems promise to be extremely useful tools for remote sensing of atmospheric pollutants. Recent advances in solid-state lasers and nonlinear optics permit the construction of optical parametric oscillators (OPOs) which allow the lasers to be tuned over the spectral range from 0.19 mm to 15.0 mm. These broadly tunable laser sources are well-suited to probe a large number of molecular species present in the atmosphere. By directing a short pulse of laser light of known wavelength toward a region of interest in the atmosphere, it is possible to monitor backscattered light and obtain information which identifies the types of species occurring along the path. Aurora proposes to develop a tunable airborne DIAL instrument (to be flown in Aurora's Theseus high-altitude, long-endurance unnamed aerial vehicle) to measure greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere and characterize tropospheric and stratospheric chemistry. This system will provide high-accuracy data to complement early MTPE/EOS-era satellite measurements and will provide calibration and verification for the CHEM Series platform to be launched in 2002.
POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS
The primary application for an airborne tunable DIAL system for robotic aircraft will be NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. Presently, a fleet of 10-12 of Aurora's Theseus unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) 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 tunable 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.
NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR
Ngoc Hoang
Aurora Flight Sciences Corp
9950 Wakeman Drive
Manassas, VA 20110
NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR
Aurora Flight Sciences Corp
9950 Wakeman Drive
Manassas, VA 20110