With a contract from the U.S. Army, the University of Nevada, Reno is partnering with NevadaNano to develop a robotic flying vehicle that can be used for environmental health and safety monitoring of large areas. The goal is development of a flying robot with integrated chemical sensing, inter-unit communication, and the potential for self-powering. It will be able to "swarm" with other similar units to monitor, collect, and analyze samples while in flight and relay data immediately.

Kam Leang (left) and Ben Rogers of NevadaNano are developing a robotic flying vehicle for environmental health and safety monitoring.

The flying robotic platforms may evolve to a system to carry a number of payloads, beginning with this autonomous environmental detection system, for a wide variety of applications. The sensor system, with a sensor chip about 1 x 1 mm, currently installed in a housing about the size of a shoebox, is being reduced in size and will eventually be about the size of a deck of cards, with the sensing system integrated into the construction of the flying robot.

The final platform will detect environmental threats in vapor form using interchangeable, onboard sensors. Utilizing the real-time data collected and analyzed by these sensors, the unit will be capable of swarming with other units during surveillance of a given area to, for example, localize and profile a contaminant source, such as toxic industrial chemicals and materials, semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds (pesticides, ammonia, and explosives), and chemical or biological agents.