The ability to collect in-situ atmospheric ash samples directly related to several of NASA's core missions. NASA's Airborne Science program is the direct customer of the NavSonde, which is specially designed to be deployed from NASA's DC-8 platform. Current measurements of ash plumes, such as from MODIS have a stated need for validation, which can be provided by the sampling returns of the NavSonde.
The NavSonde's greatest potential is in providing timely qualitative information to decision makers in the wake of events such as the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, which was estimated to have a USD$5B negative impact on Europe's economy. By providing in-situ measurements of composition and size distribution of hazardous particulates, the NavSonde will minimize disruptions to air traffic and other economic activity that might otherwise be impacted by overly conservative decisions made with an absence of information. Groups as diverse as universities, the DOE, and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers have directly expressed interest in using the NavSonde to further their goals.