You are here

Unmanned Aircraft System-Borne Gravimeter

Description:

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) within NOS has a federal mandate to provide accurate positioning, including heights, to all federal non-military mapping activities in the USA.  The NOAA NGS leads the GRAV-D Project (Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum) with a specific goal to model and monitor Earth's geoid (a surface of the gravity field, very closely related to global mean sea level) to serve as a zero reference surface for all heights in the nation.  Accurate heights are critical information needed for better understanding of threats to low-lying communities and coastal ecosystems from inundation by storms, flooding, and/or sea level rise.  The GRAV-D Project has successfully utilized airborne gravimetry observations to collect highly precise gravity measurements throughout CONUS, Alaska, and their littoral regions.  However, more than 85% of the targeted surface area still needs to be economically surveyed, including portions of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Island holdings, and most of interior CONUS.

 

Project Goals: As Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) mature in flight capabilities and operational readiness, UAS provide a feasible alternative to manned airborne gravimetry missions.  Gravity data collection by manned aircraft can typically be categorized as very dull due to long, repetitive flight paths as the aircraft "mows the lawn" over a given data collection region.  These missions pose a safety challenge for pilots who must maintain concentration and focus during the mundane flight patterns.  UAS can also offer fuel savings over comparable manned aircraft, leading to more energy efficient data collection, and quicker survey completion because of the long endurance of the platform.

 

The NOAA UAS Program is partnering with the GRAV-D Project to explore cost and operationally feasible UAS observing strategies for gravity data collection.  We request a Phase I study to demonstrate the design feasibility of an airborne gravimeter suitable for autonomous data collection onboard a low or medium altitude long endurance UAS operating in turbulent environments.  The design of the system must describe the detailed system interface between the UAS and gravimeter payload, including power, navigation, and data communication systems.

 

Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables: The purpose of this Phase I is to determine the technical feasibility of the proposed research and the quality of performance of the small business concern receiving an award.  We request a Phase I study to demonstrate the design feasibility of an airborne gravimeter suitable for autonomous data collection onboard a low or medium altitude long endurance UAS operating in turbulent environments.  The design of the system must:

 

1.    Identify a UAS platform (Predator Band IKHANA are promising candidates),

2.    Identify a gravimeter payload suitable for gravimetric geoid modeling,

3.    Describe the detailed system interface between the UAS and gravimeter payload,

4.    Describe the power, navigation, and data communication sub-systems,

5.    Provide a cost analysis for Phase II and future operational system.

 

Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables: Phase II will be the Research & Development (R&D) and prototype development phase which will require:

 

1.    Comprehensive proposal outlining the research in detail,

2.    New technology flight demonstration of proposed UAS/GRA V-D system (small business may request government owned equipment in this phase),

3.    Delivery of the prototype design including drawings,

4.    Plan to commercialize the final product,

5.    A company presentation to the SBIR panel.

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government