Special Coverage


Hurricane-Tracking Unmanned Systems Win NASA Challenge

NASA has selected three winning designs solicited to address the technological limitations of the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) currently used to track and collect data on hurricanes. Engineering teams at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Purdue University, and the University of Virginia were named first- through third-place winners, respectively, of the agency's 2013-2014 University Aeronautics Engineering Design Challenge.

Posted in: Alternative Fuels, Environmental Monitoring, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, Aerospace, Aviation, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, Data Acquisition, News


Heat-Sensing Camera Reveals Map of Mars Surface

A heat-sensing camera designed at Arizona State University has provided data to create the most detailed global map yet made of Martian surface properties.The map uses data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a nine-band visual and infrared camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. A version of the map optimized for scientific researchers is available at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)."We used more than 20,000 THEMIS nighttime temperature images to generate the highest resolution surface property map of Mars ever created," says the Geological Survey's Robin Fergason, who earned her doctorate at ASU in 2006. "Now these data are freely available to researchers and the public alike." SourceAlso: Read a Q&A with a Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) engineer.  

Posted in: Cameras, Imaging, Aerospace, Data Acquisition, News


NASA’s High-Flying Laser Altimeter Measures Summer Sea Ice

When NASA launches the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, in 2017, it will measure Earth’s elevation by sending out pulses of green laser light and timing how long it takes individual photons to bounce off Earth’s surface and return. The number and patterns of photons that come back depend on the type of ice they bounce off – whether it’s smooth or rough, watery or snow-covered.To get a preview of what summertime will look like to ICESat-2, NASA scientists, engineers, and pilots have traveled to Fairbanks, Alaska, to fly an airborne test bed instrument called the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL. MABEL collects data in the same way that ICESat-2’s instrument will – with lasers and photon-detectors. The data from the Alaskan campaign will allow researchers to develop computer programs, or algorithms, to analyze the information from ICESat-2.“We need to give scientists data to enable them to develop algorithms that work during summer,” said Thorsten Markus, ICESat-2’s project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “All the algorithms need to be tested and in place by the time of launch. And one thing that was missing was ICESat-2-like data on the summer conditions.”Between July 12 and August 1, MABEL will fly aboard NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 aircraft as the Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting. In its half-dozen flights, the instrument will take measurements of the sea ice and Alaska’s southern glaciers, as well as forests, lakes, open ocean, the atmosphere and more, sending data back to researchers on the ground.SourceAlso: Learn about the Debris & ICE Mapping Analysis Tool (DIMAT).

Posted in: Electronics & Computers, Photonics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Environmental Monitoring, Green Design & Manufacturing, Test & Measurement, Measuring Instruments, Aerospace, Aviation, RF & Microwave Electronics, Data Acquisition, News


Data Acquisition and Processing Software — DAPS

DAPS was designed to support the DAWN-AIR project participating in the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) hurricane campaign. It controls the data acquisition system consisting of a scanner that directs the lidar beam, an inertial navigation system/GPS (INS/GPS) unit for monitoring aircraft motion, a DSP module, and serial and video modules while acquiring and processing lidar data in real time. DAPS was optimized to meet the project requirement: acquiring and processing more than 550,000 samples per second. DAPS was capable of managing such extensive computational loads without experiencing a single incident of crash or system failure during the entire 130 flight hours of the GRIP mission.

Posted in: Software, Data Acquisition, Briefs


Debris & Ice Mapping Analysis Tool — Database

The software is simple for engineers and management to use. The Debris & ICE Mapping Analysis Tool (DIMAT) system is a Web-based system that supports communication, data integration, data sharing, and problem definition/resolution through use of an integrated presentation framework for ice and debris description and analysis. It provides an integrated engineering problem description, visualization analysis, and resolution presentation framework for ice and debris issues. These include, but are not limited to: pre-launch debris walk-downs; ice formation during tanking, pre-launch, and launch; debris hits on Orbiter identified on-orbit or post-landing; and external tank (ET) foam damage/texture mapping. The DIMAT system leverages the EMaps application and models, as well as Design Visualization Group (DVG) models to provide high-fidelity 3D models of the Orbiter, ET, Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB), and Pad. Proposed solutions generated by DIMAT integrate these models with ice/frost/debris location data, and can include 3D visualizations and digital photographs of ice and/or orbiter TPS (thermal protection system) debris hits. Ice/debris displayed on the EMaps model will represent actual size and location. The user will be able to access data and photograph displays by selecting the ice on the EMaps model.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Data Acquisition, Briefs


Data Fusion for Global Estimation of Forest Characteristics From Sparse Lidar Data

A new approach automatically produces a hierarchical set of image segmentations for detailed analysis of forest data. This lidar data fusion approach is based on associating samples from sparse lidar data with groups of region objects determined by a unique image segmentation approach, HSeg (Hierar - chical Segmentation). This segmentation approach, which was previously developed by co-innovator James Tilton, is ideal for this application because HSeg automatically produces a hierarchical set of image segmentations, i.e., a set of several image segmentations of the same image at different levels of detail in which the segmentations at coarser levels of detail can be produced from simple merges of regions at finer levels of detail. This enables a simple approach for selecting an appropriate level of segmentation detail. HSeg also automatically classifies the spatially continuous region objects into region classes, through a tight intertwining of region growing segmentation, which produces spatially connected region objects, with non-adjacent region object aggregation, which groups sets of region objects together into region classes. No other practical, operational image segmentation approach has this tight integration of region growing, object finding with non-adjacent region aggregation. HSeg produces image segmentations with high spatial fidelity — enabled by the tight intertwining of region growing segmentation with non-adjacent region object aggregation.

Posted in: Information Sciences, Data Acquisition, Briefs


Transportable Instrumentation Package for In-Vehicle On-Road Data Acquisition

This portable data acquisition system is a viable alternative to first developing a fully instrumented test vehicle. The study of driver behavior can provide a wealth of information that can be useful in the design of automobiles including active safety features and functions. There may be differences in driver behavior, as reflected in driver state, and these differences may be confounded by a driver’s condition. Much can be learned from studies that look at driver state and condition to answer questions such as how vehicle features and functionality could be designed to complement the driver’s capabilities and limitations in the vehicle. Also, a better understanding could be gained to determine how, or if at all, a safety feature’s characteristics should be modified to accommodate a driver’s condition.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Data Acquisition, Briefs