MISSION ADAPTIVE UAS CAPABILITIES FOR EARTH SCIENCE AND RESOURCE ASSESSMENT
- NASAAmes Research Center, Moffett Field CA, 94035, USA
Keywords: Remote sensing, UAS, autopilot, flight control, sensors, hyperspectral, radiometry, magnetometry
Abstract. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are important assets for accessing high risk airspace and incorporate technologies for sensor coordination, onboard processing, tele-communication, unconventional flight control, and ground based monitoring and optimization. These capabilities permit adaptive mission management in the face of complex requirements and chaotic external influences. NASA Ames Research Center has led a number of Earth science remote sensing missions directed at the assessment of natural resources and here we describe two resource mapping problems having mission characteristics requiring a mission adaptive capability extensible to other resource assessment challenges.
One example involves the requirement for careful control over solar angle geometry for passive reflectance measurements. This constraint exists when collecting imaging spectroscopy data over vegetation for time series analysis or for the coastal ocean where solar angle combines with sea state to produce surface glint that can obscure the signal. Furthermore, the primary flight control imperative to minimize tracking error should compromise with the requirement to minimize aircraft motion artifacts in the spatial measurement distribution. A second example involves mapping of natural resources in the Earth’s crust using precision magnetometry. In this case the vehicle flight path must be oriented to optimize magnetic flux gradients over a spatial domain having continually emerging features, while optimizing the efficiency of the spatial mapping task.
These requirements were highlighted in recent Earth Science missions including the OCEANIA mission directed at improving the capability for spectral and radiometric reflectance measurements in the coastal ocean, and the Surprise Valley Mission directed at mapping sub-surface mineral composition and faults, using high-sensitivity magnetometry. This paper reports the development of specific aircraft control approaches to incorporate the unusual and demanding requirements to manage solar angle, aircraft attitude and flight path orientation, and efficient (directly geo-rectified) surface and sub-surface mapping, including the near-time optimization of these sometimes competing requirements.