NASA scientists are constantly searching for new aerial platforms to carry out their research. Their diligence seems to be paying off as they take advantage of two agency-developed unmanned aerial systems (UAS), that EurekAlert is reporting as “the future of drone aircraft“.
The Vanilla Aircraft’s VA001 and Black Swift Technologies’ S2 sUAS were designed specifically for scientific investigations. Both systems, funded by NASA’s Small Business Innovative Research program, provide unique capabilities representing significant success for SBIR.
“Our goal always is to advance state-of-the-art airborne capabilities and platforms tailored to the needs of our scientists,” said Bland, who oversaw the aircrafts’ development. “The SBIR program offered us an outstanding venue for engaging small businesses in our quest to develop new tools for gathering scientific data.”
According to the article of EurekAlert, the aircraft are operational, offering the scientific community complementary, easy-to-use capabilities at a lower cost.
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To Antarctica and Back
Vanilla Aircraft’s VA001 provides a case in point.
Smaller than NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, which requires a relatively large team to operate, the VA001 can carry 35 pounds of payload and fly at 500 to 15,000 feet above sea level. Its primary attraction — and the reason NASA funded its development through the SBIR program — is its ability to carry out research over the most forbidding locations on Earth. It can cover thousands of square miles of treacherous terrain and bone-chilling temperatures of -40-degrees Fahrenheit in a single flight.
It runs on jet-grade fuel, which contains corrosion inhibitors and anti-icing additives crucial to operations in the Arctic or Antarctica. “It was an important part of the aircraft’s design to fly under the toughest and coldest conditions,” said Joe Famiglietti, the technology-infusion manager for Goddard’s SBIR/Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Continue reading more about the new NASA-developed drone with one-of-a-kind capabilities.