ENABLING EARTH SCIENCE MEASUREMENTS WITH NASA UAS CAPABILITIES
- 1NASAArmstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, California 93523, USA
- 2Longitude 122 West, Inc., 885 Oak Grove Avenue, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA
- 3NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA
- 4NASA Airborne Science Program, 300 E Street SW, Washington DC 20546, USA
Keywords: NASA, UAS, UAV, airborne, aircraft, Earth Science
Abstract. NASA’s Airborne Science Program (ASP) maintains a fleet of manned and unmanned aircraft for Earth Science measurements and observations. The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) range in size from very large (Global Hawks) to medium (SIERRA, Viking) and relatively small (DragonEye). UAS fly from very low (boundary layer) to very high altitude (stratosphere). NASA also supports science and applied science projects using UAS operated by outside companies or agencies. The aircraft and accompanying data and support systems have been used in numerous investigations. For example, Global Hawks have been used to study both hurricanes and atmospheric composition. SIERRA has been used to study ice, earthquake faults, and coral reefs. DragonEye is being used to measure volcanic emissions. As a foundation for NASA’s UAS work, Altair and Ikhana not only flew wildfires in the US, but also provided major programs for the development of real-time data download and processing capabilities. In 2014, an advanced L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar flew for the first time on Global Hawk, demonstrating UAVSAR, which has been flying successfully on a manned aircraft. This paper focuses on two topics: 1) results of a NASA program called UAS-Enabled Earth Science, in which three science teams flew UAS to demonstrate platform and sensor performance, airspace integration, and applied science results from the data collected; 2) recent accomplishments with the high altitude, long-duration Global Hawks. The challenges experienced with flying UAS are discussed. Recent upgrades to data processing, communications, tracking and flight planning systems are described.