Nasa selects Near Earth Autonomy to develop safe unmanned aircraft operation


Nasa’s Langley Research Center in the US has chosen Near Earth Autonomy to develop and demonstrate technologies that enable safe operation of unmanned aircraft.

Awarded as part of Nasa’s small business innovation research (SBIR) programme, the contract will help the agency’s mission to bring in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into US National Airspace (NAS).

Under the deal, Near Earth will develop an autonomous contingency system (ACS) that will enable the UAS to deal with wind disturbances, loss of power, as well as engine and sensor failures.

"It is essential to have the technology onboard that will identify the contingency, adapt to the situation, and make the necessary modifications for a safe and successful mission.”

Capable of recognising and adapting to changes in unpredictable environments, the fully autonomous ACS can also complete its task with less manpower.

Near Earth Autonomy CEO Sanjiv Singh said: “As unmanned aircraft are taking on these complex and hazardous conditions in low-altitudes, it is essential to have the technology onboard that will identify the contingency, adapt to the situation, and make the necessary modifications for a safe and successful mission.”

The UAS can be used for various purposes such as crop field’s survey, inspection of large structures, and packages and cargo delivery.

They can also be used to conduct dangerous missions such as fire-fighting and search and rescue.

In June, Near Earth secured a $754,000 contract under Nasa’s SBIR programme to develop the Safe50 software module for UAS.

Once developed, the technology will enable safe UAS flight, especially during the first and last 50ft of the take-off and landing phases.