The potential NASA commercial application exists in continued development of autonomy in UAS for the integration in NextGen. NASA researchers could use the resulting designs and/or prototypes of this research to extend their current work in the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to develop and evaluate the efficacy of newer, more human-centric autonomous control systems for UAS. Additionally, the identification and evaluation of operational functions will help NASA in developing a hierarchical taxonomy of autonomy of UAS functions. The results of the image processing techniques can also be used in manned aviation systems and potentially for interplanetary robotic missions where autonomy would provide more independent, but safer exploration of unknown environments.
Demand for more intuitive and autonomous control system for UAS will increase in the future as more applications are being developed for UAS in the NAS. Technologies that will help UAS operators perform their intended functions while maintaining the equivalent level of safety will be essential for their acceptance and inclusion in the NAS. Development of a low-cost airworthy all weather imaging sensor system can be incorporated into commercial UAS to help maintain safe operations in the terminal and enroute area in the NextGen. Safe, reliable, autonomously operating UAS can reduce the cost of monitoring infrastructure that span across physical distance, challenging terrain, and normally inaccessible places. While the paradigm may shift at different rates, it is clear that the development of autonomous functions will help pave the way to a better defined national airspace where piloted and unmanned system can coexist to increase the productivity of our national economy and improve the human condition where UAS will be working to monitor our safety and provide assistance when needed. Image processing techniques to improve the sensing capabilities is desired across many disciplines and within other non-NASA agencies. The ability to derive information from pixels in low visibility or inclement weather is important to the Department of Defense, NOAA, National Weather Service, Department of Interior, and agencies where imagery is a critical source for information mining.