Robotic Aircraft

Science and Technology Strategy

The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) vision to improve life here with the mission to understand and protect our home planet demands fundamentally new technology that advances economic and societal safety and stability through a decidedly more sophisticated union of in situ and remote observations of the Earth system. Investigation of how the living Earth system is changing due to naturally occurring and human induced processes, and investigation of the consequences of these changes for life on Earth, can only be achieved by tactical advances in the technology that more effectively joins the observational and modeling strategy of the SMD.

Predominant issues that underpin the national effort in Earth system science, climate research and human health include:

A key regime in technology innovation to advance the objectives of SMD is the union between advanced laser development, the application of UAVs, and collaboration with the new generation of NASA satellites for Earth observations. The schematic depicting this strategy is displayed in Figure 1.

In order to realize major advances in achieving NASA SMD objectives, it is important to identify new strategies for uniting the orbital and sub-orbital components of the program that will effectively join in situ and remote observations from a combination of platforms to far more rigorously test key hypotheses, establish the veracity of retrievals, expand the spatial and temporal coverage of the overlap between high resolution in situ measurements of fluxes and of chemical, dynamical and radiatively important species, and finally join, with a far more comprehensive footprint, sub-orbital in situ/remote observations with observations from the NASA A-Train constellation of Earth observing satellites. Emphasis of this research focuses on the union of scientific objectives among Aura, Parasol, Calipso, CloudSat, Aqua and the technology innovation for UAV deployment that is the primary objective of Instrument Incubator Program innovation.

A-Train satellites and UAVs Figure 1: A key technological strategy is the effective union of the NASA A-Train satellite constellation and the development of powerful in situ and remote measurement arrays from UAVs such as the Altair that, with state-of-the-art miniaturized laser systems developed under the IIP program, can provide fundamentally improved tests of satellite measurement accuracy and compelling new collaborative strategies for scientific inquiry and societal benefit.