Future Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and air taxis will require advanced onboard autonomy to operate safely within complex and dynamic urban environments. Urban landscapes are dynamic and constantly evolving. In addition to multi-directional, intense, and seemingly unpredictable winds often created in urban canyons, an exact knowledge of current building sizes, shapes, and positions is also often unavailable for real-time navigation.

Left: UAS in synthetic environment using MAESTRO for safe urban operations; Right: GPS-free onboard sensing and computing integrated with MAESTRO.

The MAchine learning ESTimations for uRban Operations (MAESTRO) system is a novel approach that couples commodity sensors with advanced algorithms to provide real-time onboard local wind and kinematics estimations to a vehicle's guidance and navigation system. Sensors and computations are integrated in a novel way to predict local winds and promote safe operations in dynamic urban regions where Global Positioning System/Global Navigation Satellite System (GPS/GNSS) and other network communications may be unavailable or are difficult to obtain when surrounded by tall buildings due to multi-path reflections and signal diffusion.

The system can be implemented onboard an UAS and once airborne, the system does not require communication with an external data source or the GPS/GNSS. Estimations of the local winds (speed and direction) are created using inputs from onboard sensors that scan the local building environment. This information can then be used by the onboard guidance and navigation system to determine safe and energy-efficient trajectories for operations in urban and suburban settings. The technology is robust to dynamic environments, input noise, missing data, and other uncertainties, and has been demonstrated successfully in lab experiments and computer simulations.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 855-627-2249 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here for more information.