A Lawrence-based company is gearing up to continue research that could extend the duration of a $30 billion-per-year industry.
KalScott Engineering Inc. this week will sign a $600,000 contract with NASA to develop, design, test and evaluate new hardware and software intended to boost the range of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The contract is a follow-up on a $100,000 NASA contract that KalScott landed last year in conjunction with researchers at North Carolina State University.
The latest contract - $600,000 for two years - will be one of 14 Small Business Technology Transfer projects approved by NASA for a total of $8.4 million. KalScott's work will focus on improving the range, maneuvering capabilities and speed of UAVs, which can carry cameras, sensors or other materials and equipment.
KalScott Engineering Inc.
Owners: Tom Sherwood and Suman Saripalli Employees: 6 Founded: 2002 Description: KalScott Engineering provides specialized, full-service research, development, test and evaluation solutions for aerospace, defense and remote-sensing industries - most of it involving unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Recent clients include the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Command, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command.
"We're pretty enthused to have been selected for this funding," said Suman Saripalli, KalScott co-owner and vice president for new business. "We are going to be able to increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft to let them be able to fly longer distances - longer endurance - and this technology really can be applied to anything that ranges from tens of pounds to thousands of pounds."
NASA uses UAVs for science experiments and mapping, but other agencies, operations and companies are making increased use of the vehicles that either follow a preprogrammed flight plan or otherwise are controlled by operators on the ground.
KalScott, founded in Lawrence in 2002, already has contracts and business arrangements with the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and - biggest of all - the Department of Defense. The company also has arrangements with commercial businesses.
Technical information about the project
"We are actively working on both avenues," said Tom Sherwood, co-owner and president.
The military has been busy developing and deploying UAVs, some of which are deployed in Iraq and are controlled by military personnel outside Las Vegas. Other UAVs are used and are being developed for homeland security and border-patrol applications.
Saripalli said much of KalScott's work had been on the "operational" side of UAVs, for use by the U.S. Navy. But he knows that spin-offs from the latest contract with NASA could lead to advances across a spectrum of vehicles and applications.
"Eventually I can see it being transitioned to other programs, but right now it's just a technology-development effort," he said.