The Fly-Radar project deals with the production of a dual-mode, low-frequency radar installed on board of a leight-weight UAV.
The radar will operate into two modes: as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and as ground penetrating radar. Both instruments provide extremely interesting images that are extensively used in Earth and planetary observations.
However, these airborne systems are bulky and can be operated only from manned aircraft both planes and helicopters. On the other hand, the few drones that can sustain such an equipment are large and heavy. In both cases, the operations are expensive and with a complicate logistic. The quantum leap of FlyRadar consists in installing this radar system onboard a small and light electric octocopter, providing low-cost utilisation and easy operations. This affordable system will enlarge the user communities generating the possibility for an extensive use of FlyRadar taking advantage of the potentiality of this long-lasting innovation.
The use of SAR and penetrating radar is widespread in Earth observation spanning from geological survey to archeological prospecting, from agricultural assessment to artefact detection. However, FlyRadar could be used also in planetary exploration. The NASA mission Mars2020 has succesfully tested a drone and it will pave the way for the utilisation of UAVs in the in-situ exploration of Mars and Titan.
The project is split in two phases. The first half of the project will be devoted in identifying the requirement, in designing instruments and in building them. The second half will be dedicated to the evaluation of FlyRadar with three experiments lasting one month each. The tests will be performed in dry desert areas to avoid the negative effect of ground water and humidity on the radar signal. The test executions will be matched by month-long joint sessions for the analysis of the data, assess the scientific value and investigate the technological aspects.
The Fly-Radar project aims to pursue a series of scientific, technical and business oriented objectives (Obj), in addition to training and mobility objectives (T&M):
- Scientific, technical and business oriented objectives:
- Obj-1: Fuse and jointly apply the comparative knowledge of the participants on radar data: Analysis and evaluation of scientific and technological requirements for both planetary exploration and Earth- based instrumentation. The existing and available State-Of-Art (SOA) Mars and Earth data, scientific, mission and technological requirements will be reviewed and harmonized in order to support the design of the portable instruments. In particular, the future of the exploration of planetary body with atmosphere (Mars) will be analyzed in order to understand the potential development of the radar and associated drone. In addition, (in term of analysis of the Martian environment), selection of suitable analogue terrains and samples, as well as the critical technologies required to miniaturize and meet expected payload criteria will be investigated. The outcome from different partners will be fused, distilled and provide inputs for the other WPs.
- Obj- 2: Cross-sector collaboration to achieve ideal application of radar facility: Analysis, design and optimization of a prototype instrument (radar and drone) suitable for planetary exploration. The focus is on the analysis, design and development of a functional breadboard of a miniaturized and portable radar suitable for aerial exploration based on radar techniques – however this activity is mainly about to adapt the already existing system (see “Overview of the research programme” section). The aim is solving all issues given by constraints from the mechanical, electrical, electronics, payload, mass and energy consumption, along with the scientific and operational aspects related to the field testing.
- Obj-3: Validate and adapt a prototype using terrestrial analogues in relevant environments. The focus is on flight operation, radar signal, prototype calibration, validation with actual operations, according to test scenarios based on terrestrial analogues of Mars and Earth rocks, including various sediments. Validation will be carried out using both theoretical modelling and simulation. The prototypes will be validated according to the Validation Plan with respect to System Requirements as well as User Requirements.
- Obj-4: Sharing knowledge and jointly identify the economic feasibility and impact of the instrument for both space and non-space markets from science-technology synergy. The development of a technological roadmap to transition from a functional breadboard to a flight grade instrument by increasing its TRL will be done including market study and development plans, IPR issues, and the establishment of new contacts and strategic alliances for the commercialization of these technologies both at European and worldwide level.
- Training and mobility objectives (T&M)
- T&M-1: Push innovation through the development of an initial research and training network that will focus its activities on the development, effective integration and increased utilization of innovative radar and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technologies by joint activities.
- T&M-2: Provide researchers and professionals with the opportunity to go beyond the current state-of-the-art in geology and instrumentation for surface and subsurface analyses, through a multidisciplinary and international approach based on the development of a prototype that can contribute to a more effective planetary exploration as well as Earth Science.
- T&M-3: Support early career researchers and, hence, possibly continue and improve their careers at high profile universities and well established private enterprises, even after the end of their individual project within FlyRadar.
- T&M-4: Build up specific complementary and market-oriented skills to allow the European researchers and professionals to face the new challenge in terms of future technology development in a competitive business market environment.
These objectives will be achieved through 9 work packages, which collectively create efficient and effective synergies among multidisciplinary consortium’s partners.