Tech Briefs

Insect-Inspired Flight Control for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Relatively simple sensory and computing systems would generate remarkably effective control in flight to allow close-up approach to hard terrain. Flight-control and navigation systems inspired by the structure and function of the visual system and brain of insects have been proposed for a class of developmental miniature robotic aircraft called “biomorphic flyers” described earlier in “Development of Biomorphic Flyers” (), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 28, No. 11 (November 2004), page 54. These form a subset of biomorphic explorers, which, as reported in several articles in past issues of NASA Tech Briefs [“Biomorphic Explorers” (), Vol. 22, No. 9 (September 1998), page 71; “Bio-Inspired Engineering of Exploration Systems” (), Vol. 27, No. 5 (May 2003), page 54; and “Cooperative Lander-Surface/Aerial Microflyer Missions for Mars Exploration” (), Vol. 28, No. 5 (May 2004), page 36], are proposed small robots, equipped with microsensors and communication systems, that would incorporate crucial functions of mobility, adaptability, and even cooperative behavior. These functions are inherent to biological organisms but are challenging frontiers for technical systems. Biomorphic flyers could be used on Earth or remote planets to explore otherwise difficult or impossible to reach sites. An example of an exploratory task of search/surveillance functions currently being tested is to obtain high-resolution aerial imagery, using a variety of miniaturized electronic cameras.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Semantic Metrics for Analysis of Software

These metrics represent a more human oriented view of software. A recently conceived suite of object-oriented software metrics focus is on semantic aspects of software, in contradistinction to traditional software metrics, which focus on syntactic aspects of software. Semantic metrics represent a more human-oriented view of software than do syntactic metrics. The semantic metrics of a given computer program are calculated by use of the output of a knowledge-based analysis of the program, and are substantially more representative of software quality and more readily comprehensible from a human perspective than are the syntactic metrics.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Information Sciences

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Development of Software for a Lidar-Altimeter Processor

A report describes the development of software for a digital processor that operates in conjunction with a finite-impulse-response (FIR) chip in a spaceborne lidar altimeter.Processing is started by a laserfire interrupt signal that is repeated at intervals of 25 ms. For the purpose of discriminating between returns from the ground and returns from such things as trees, buildings, and clouds, the software is required to scan digitized lidar-return data in reverse of the acquisition sequence in order to distinguish the last return pulse from within a commanded ground-return range window. The digitized waveform information within this range window is filtered through 6 matched filters, in the hardware electronics, in order to maximize the probability of finding echoes from sloped or rough terrain and minimize the probability of selecting cloud returns. From the data falling past the end of the range window, there is obtained a noise baseline that is used to calculate a threshold value for each filter. The data from each filter is analyzed by a complex weighting scheme and the filter with the greatest weight is selected. A region around the peak of the ground-return pulse associated with the selected filter is placed in telemetry, as well as information on its location, height, and other characteristics. The software requires many uplinked parameters as input. Included in the report is a discussion of major software-development problems posed by the design of the FIR chip and the need for the software to complete its process within 20 ms to fit within the overall 25-ms cycle.

Posted in: Briefs, Information Sciences

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Molybdate Coatings for Protecting Aluminum Against Corrosion

These coatings show promise, but further development is needed. Conversion coatings that comprise mixtures of molybdates and several additives have been subjected to a variety of tests to evaluate their effectiveness in protecting aluminum and alloys of aluminum against corrosion. Molybdate conversion coatings are under consideration as replacements for chromate conversion coatings, which have been used for more than 70 years. The chromate coatings are highly effective in protecting aluminum and its alloys against corrosion but are also toxic and carcinogenic. Hexavalent molybdenum and, hence, molybdates containing hexavalent molybdenum, have received attention recently as replacements for chromates because molybdates mimic chromates in a variety of applications but exhibit significantly lower toxicity.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Synthesizing Diamond From Liquid Feedstock

Precise proportioning of feedstock gases is not necessary. A relatively economical method of chemical vapor deposition (CVD) has been developed for synthesizing diamond crystals and films. Unlike prior CVD methods for synthesizing diamond, this method does not require precisely proportioned flows of compressed gas feedstocks or the use of electrical discharges to decompose the feedstocks to obtain free radicals needed for deposition chemical reactions. Instead, the feedstocks used in this method are mixtures of common organic liquids that can be prepared in advance, and decomposition of feedstock vapors is effected simply by heating.

Posted in: Briefs, Materials

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Modifying Silicates for Better Dispersion in Nanocomposites

Processability and final material properties are improved. An improved chemical modification has been developed to enhance the dispersion of layered silicate particles in the formulation of a polymer/silicate nanocomposite material. The modification involves, among other things, the co-exchange of an alkyl ammonium ion and a monoprotonated diamine with interlayer cations of the silicate. The net overall effects of the improved chemical modification are to improve processability of the nanocomposite and maximize the benefits of dispersing the silicate particles into the polymer.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Materials

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Fiber-Optic Sensor Would Monitor Growth of Polymer Film

Changes in thickness would be inferred from interference fringes. A proposed optoelectronic sensor system would measure the increase in thickness of a film of parylene (a thermoplastic polymer made from para-xylene) during growth of the film in a vapor deposition process. By enabling real-time monitoring of film thickness, the system would make it possible to identify process conditions favorable for growth and to tailor the final thickness of the film with greater precision than is now possible.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP, Physical Sciences

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