NASA has awarded Black Swift Technologies (BST), a specialized engineering firm based in Boulder, Colo., a contract to develop and deliver a purpose-built small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) for monitoring volcanic ash.
According to BST, the scientific platform will explore volcanoes in order to improve air traffic management systems and the accuracy of ash fall measurements. BST will deliver a solution consisting of an airframe, avionics and sensors specifically designed to measure selected gases and atmospheric parameters, including temperature, pressure, humidity and 3D winds, as well as more advanced measurements, such as particle sizing and trace gases.
Based on BST’s commercially available SuperSwift airframe and SwiftCore flight management system, the SuperSwift drone is specifically engineered to meet the demands of high-altitude flights through strong winds and damaging airborne particulates typical of nomadic scientific field campaigns in harsh environments, says BST.
According to the company, the sUAS will provide targeted, in situ observations from previously inaccessible regions.
Leveraging BST’s proprietary mission planning software, scientists can program the SuperSwift in minutes to calculate an area under review and then begin collecting data for immediate analysis and decision-making. Mission monitoring and mapping is all done from a handheld Android tablet loaded with BST’s SwiftTab software. In addition, says BST, gesture-based controls enable users to deploy the SuperSwift with minimal training.
“NASA and similar scientific agencies require deliverables with a high degree of accuracy and reliability,” says Jack Elston, Ph.D., CEO of BST. “The SuperSwift XT will be designed to collect data in harsh environments and will enhance the performance and utility of NASA’s airborne science fleet.”