The proposed research aligns closely with several NASA programs and thus has multiple potential NASA commercial applications. The system directly addresses the Integrated Aviation Systems Program (IASP) focus areas of perception, cognition, and decision making and operation of multiple UAS with minimal human oversight.? The overall goal of the IASP is to demonstrate integrated technologies to a maturity level that is sufficient to reduce the risk of implementation for stakeholders in the aviation community. To meet this goal, the Phase I effort has been used to lay the groundwork for a series of flight-test experiments in Phase II that will advance the recovery system to TRL 7. The Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) project is researching prototype technologies to enable and safely manage the widespread use of low-altitude airspace and UAS operations. The proposed technology will help meet the autonomicity goals of this program, enabling UAS to maintain control when faced with the large range of precipitating factors that lead to LOC. The Safe Autonomous Systems Operations (SASO) project seeks ways to safely integrate within the National Airspace System the highest level of automation that is justifiable, exploring future airspace concepts including point-to-point and on-demand usage of personal air vehicles (PAVs). The recovery system is applicable to any autonomous vehicle whether a small UAS or self-flying PAV.
The proposed Phase II program is structured to raise the maturity of the recovery system to a level that enables product commercialization onboard commercial inspection UAS. One of the Phase II partners is actively conducting inspection flights for utility companies under a Section 333 exemption from the FAA and has provided low-cost aerial imagery to identify numerous infrastructure problems and wildlife issues. Inspection operations are conducted at low altitude and in close proximity to infrastructure to provide the highest quality imagery. Clearly, this leaves a very small margin for recovering from upset events. The recovery system will help to mitigate the ground hazard, a very real concern considering a significant amount of utility infrastructure exists in densely populated areas. As continued use allows stakeholders to gain confidence in the system, the recovery system will enable flight beyond visual line of sight, operation of multiple UAS by a single operator, and larger mission envelopes. The operational experience that is gained after initial commercialization of the recovery system on commercial inspection UAS operated will leave the team well poised to market the technology in other sectors including (1) military and intelligence gathering operations, (2) law-enforcement operations, (3) land management oversight, (4) aerial photography, and (5) package delivery.