A Lawrence small business has been chosen by NASA to develop a drone for high-altitude air sampling missions, NASA and the business have announced.
KalScott Engineering Inc. is in the contract phase of the approximately $1 million unmanned air vehicle project, vice president of business development Suman Saripalli said. The drone is envisioned to provide data for earth science programs at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with other possible missions including military or civilian surveillance, cell and GPS services, package delivery to remote locations, wildfire monitoring and wildlife and crop surveys.
“This is something that we hope to have flying within two years,” Saripalli said, though he noted the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to formalize rules for flying drones in the United States. “The industry is basically waiting before they can start applying these rules.”
KalScott’s was one of 108 projects totaling $87 million selected for Phase II of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, according to NASA. The program aims to encourage small businesses to engage in federal research, development and commercialization.
"We see the benefits of small businesses and their SBIR-funded technology working for us every day, whether here on Earth in our air traffic control systems, or on the surface of Mars and the technology behind NASA's Mars Curiosity rover,” Michael Gazarik, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said in a news release. “Small businesses are bringing innovation to the marketplace while creating new products, new jobs, and strengthening our economy."
KalScott, with offices at 811 E. 28th St., is a small engineering and research and design firm focused on developing specialized drones and related technology for a number of federal government clients, Saripelli said. He said more details and a prototype for the NASA drone, on which KalScott is collaborating with the University of Colorado, should be available after the contract phase.
In addition to NASA and the NOAA, past clients include the U.S. armed forces, National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Saripelli and Tom Sherwood are co-owners and principals of KalScott, started in 2002, and two sister firms, Aerometrix LLC and Intellispeak LLC.