Kam Leang and Eric Pardyjak partnering with company Nevada NanoTech Systems, Inc., receive US Army DOD grant to develop a chemical sensing aerial robot. The two-year $1,000,000 (Utah’s share of $330,000) project, entitled, “STTR Phase II: Autonomous Broad Spectrum Environmental Sentinels“, will focus on developing an autonomous, hover-capable, flying robot with integrated real-time chemical sensing, inter-unit communication and basics swarming capabilities, and the potential for self-powering.
The final platform will detect and identify airborne chemicals using an onboard Molecular Property Spectrometer (MPS)—a low-cost, MEMS-based, lab-on-a-chip platform developed with support from DARPA and the DOD. This chip provides multi-mode chemical analysis with high orthogonality to enable a more comprehensive chemical analysis in a very lightweight form factor. Utilizing real-time data from the MPS, the unit will be capable of coordinating with other airborne units during surveillance of a given area to, for example, localize and profile a contaminant source. The flight vehicle is a highly maneuverable multi-rotor (quadcopter) platform designed with the ability to hover and swarm. The flying robot is equipped with sensors to allow detection of obstacles and GPS for navigation. During this program, software will be developed to enable autonomous, multi-vehicle chemical mapping missions over a user-specified region, even when obstacles are present. In Year 2, the performance of the fully integrated system (MPS/quadcopter) will be field tested at a government test site, and a functional prototype delivered to the Army.