Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015-09-01: Autonomy Incubator Hosts NASA TAC Program Director Doug Rohn and Deputy Director Richard Barhydt

The Autonomy Incubator hosted a visit today from NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD). Transformative Aeronautics Concepts (TAC) Program Director, Doug Rohn, and Deputy Director Richard Barhydt, stopped by the AI facility for an overview of the research being done, a demonstration of our current applications and a discussion of the importance of further developing our work to meet the needs of future aeronautics missions.

NASA ARMD TAC Director Douglas Rohn and Deputy Director Richard Barhydt examine
an autonomous micro UAV, shown in flight in the video below.

The micro UAV in flight (beginning at the left of the screen)

Although most of our missions utilize small UAVs, the inclusion of micro UAVs in our vehicle portfolio shows the capacity to transfer this technology to platforms of different sizes and functions. For example, when we look into the potential of this technology for delivering packages or collecting data in cluttered environments, this versatility is important as not all packages and payloads will be uniform in weight and size and some environments will demand very small vehicles.

Director Rohn and Deputy Director Barhydt were also interested in the AI's research in localization without the aid of external data such as GPS, as the applications for such technology extend to places on Earth as well as in space. To demonstrate the work our team is doing in this regard, Jim Neilan and Paul Rothhaar explained the AI's role in integrating visual odometry onto the Mars Flyer. Given the twenty minute communication latency from Earth to Mars, vehicles on Mars must be able to reliably navigate without human control as NASA explores the red planet and collects data. This requires the autonomous capabilities of obstacle detection and avoidance in order to pilot its course and to position itself in a data-deprived environment. 

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