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Surveying Earth's Gravity with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Award Information

Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2013 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive Manassas, VA -
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2013
Title: Surveying Earth's Gravity with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Agency / Branch: DOC / NOAA
Contract: WC-133R-13-CN-0093
Award Amount: $94,979.10


To assist with the National Geodetic Survey’s federal mandate to provide accurate positioning—including heights—to all federal non-military mapping activities in the USA, Aurora Flight Sciences proposes to integrate a gravimetry payload on a unmanned aerial system (UAS). Potential options include using either an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or an optionally piloted aircraft (OPA). An OPA is an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that is integrated into an aircraft combining the best of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft capabilities and can be flown traditionally manned, completely unmanned as a UAS, and in a hybrid mode-pilot on-board, but the aircraft is controlled as a UAS by a ground station. Flying a gravimeter on a OPA opens tremendous flexibility of operations for the user-flexibility that ultimately results in cost and time savings. One system satisfies both the manned and unmanned needs, so the user does not have to support two different aerial systems to perform the survey mission. And as current legislation limits UAV flights to specifically designated airspace, an OPA gives the NGS freedom to operate outside of currently available airspace, expanding the reach of the survey.

Principal Investigator:

John Wissler, Ph.D
Director, Systems Engineering
(617) 500-3978
Small Business Information at Submission:

Aurora Flight Sciences
4 Cambridge Center Floor 11 Cambridge, MA 02142-

EIN/Tax ID: 541502935
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No