Black Swift Technologies proposes the continued development, testing, validation, and delivery of the SuperSwift small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS), with a highly capable passive microwave radiometer to provide full coverage soil moisture measurements over an area of 400 acres per flight. Tight integration of the sensor with the sUAS avionics and airframe will enable precise flight control for low altitude missions in the range of 15m-30m above ground level (AGL) required for the sensor to accurately map soil moisture down to ~5cm in depth at up to a 15m resolution. The teams strong working knowledge of the regulatory environment surrounding sUAS will be used to inform the development of the system and associated concept of operations. This will facilitate safe and legal operation in the national airspace following FAA approval. The continued SuperSwift system development will address the design issues identified in Phase I. The stock airframe utilized in the Phase I study, the Tempest, while well qualified for use in preliminary flight testing, created additional challenges for integration of the soil moisture measurement payload. Due to the requirements of the radiometer antenna the Tempest was modified during Phase I to accomplish initial flight testing, but had several challenges including external placement of the antenna, more complex manufacturing of the control linkages for the rudder and elevator, and a soil moisture electronics payload that is deeply integrated into the airframe and difficult to remove for testing and replacement. These requirements drove the team to design a modified fuselage to be built in Phase II that involves a modified removable nose cone to house the entire sensor payload and converts the propulsion to a twin engine design on the wings.More »
In terms of addressable NASA markets, the SuperSwift sUAS has several unique benefits and fulfils multiple needs of the agency. The Soil Moisture Active and Passive (SMAP) Mission is in development by NASA for an October 2014 launch based on the recommendation of the National Research Council's Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space. The benefits of measuring the global hydrosphere are extensive and well documented by NASA. For SMAP specifically, the expected resolution of measurements from the passive radiometer is approximately 40 km. The SuperSwift sUAS in development is able to obtain comparable measurements to a resolution of 15 meters. This refined resolution enables two important uses of the data in support of the broader SMAP mission: validation, and resolution. In support of the prime science objectives of SMAP an extensive calibration and validation plan has been developed which articulates the need for many different data sources both before and after the spacecraft is launched. In addition to assisting with this extensive validation process, the SuperSwift sUAS will be able to augment SMAP science data products with finer resolution data near watersheds and in drought areas where local soil moisture data can provide unique information. The SuperSwift sUAS will also provide data products for regions where enhanced measurement frequency or resolution would advance research utilizing radiometer data.
The proposed system will have the ability to support FEMA in better understanding flash flood vulnerability. This utility was demonstrated in 2007 when Prof. Gasiewski led a NASA funded research effort to map soil moisture in a region of North Texas and Oklahoma that suffered from severe flooding. This data was used to provide alerts and warnings to areas susceptible to flash flooding. A SuperSwift sUAS could provide this data at a fraction of the cost and thus improve predictions for flooding events in vulnerable watersheds around the country. Providing information on vegetation density and soil moisture has a potentially powerful application in support of state and federal agencies seeking to understand, monitor, and fight wildland fires in certain circumstances. This work has been evaluated broadly by Black Swift Technologies and a proprietary white paper has been submitted to several state organizations using other sensor and system configurations. The progress made to date on developing the SuperSwift sUAS in Phase I of this project has already elicited specific interest from researchers looking at transitioning technologies to support precision agriculture applications. The Black Swift Team is work with researchers from Colorado State University to support a program with an initial SuperSwift system with the expectation of future growth as research results validate applications beyond those studied for this project.
|Organizations Performing Work
|Black Swift Technologies, LLC
|Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)