NASA officials today signed an agreement to explore development of a
world-class center designed to investigate science and commercial
applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with
high-resolution digital imaging systems.

During a ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s
Silicon Valley, officials from Ames, NASA Dryden Flight Research
Center, Edwards, Calif., Clark University, Worcester, Mass., and the
Girvan Institute, a non-profit organization located in NASA Research
Park, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a “UAV
Applications Center” in NASA Research Park.

“We are delighted to be working with Clark University, the Girvan
Institute and our friends from the Dryden Flight Research Center to
explore prospects for developing this exciting new center here at the
NASA Research Park,” said Ames Center Director Dr. Henry McDonald.

The charter of the new center is to conduct collaborative research
and development, leading to enhanced scientific and commercial
utilization of UAVs as high-resolution imaging platforms in national
airspace. Specific activities will include planning future UAV image
acquisition campaigns; developing procedures for operating UAVs in
Federal Aviation Administration-controlled airspace; testing and
evaluating high-resolution imaging systems; testing real-time
telemetry systems for payload control and data transfer; evaluating
data acquisition and control systems for real-time applications;
developing and packaging automated image processing streams;
integrating imaging payloads onto UAVs; and implementing educational
research opportunities for university students.

“We are excited by the tremendous commercial potential of UAV
research and happy to be working with NASA Ames and our other
partners on this project,” said Clark University President John
Bassett. “We are confident that the UAV Applications Center will
serve as a useful model for efficient and responsible technology

The Ames-based research team is currently conducting a $3.76 million
project for NASA’s UAV Science Demonstration Program. The effort
will provide the first-ever test of the commercial use of a
solar-powered UAV operating in national airspace. Dr. Stanley
Herwitz, professor of earth science at Clark University, serves as
principal investigator and leads a team of 15 researchers. The
selected demonstration site will be the largest coffee plantation in
the USA, located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The project will use a lightweight flying wing called the Pathfinder
Plus, developed for NASA Dryden Flight Research Center with partner
AeroVironment Inc., Monrovia, Calif. If successful, the project
holds broad implications for any users needing high-resolution
imagery in near-real time. This emerging technology could be used to
fight forest fires, evaluate environmental change, or assess civil
emergency responses.

Visit for details about the
UAV Coffee Project.

“The agreement comes at an opportune time when NASA is working more
with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of
Defense to enable UAV operations in the commercial marketplace,” said
Rich Christiansen, associate director for planning at the Dryden
Flight Research Center.

“This dynamic new collaboration will provide an excellent stimulus
for accelerating technology development between NASA’s field centers,
the academic community, and the private sector,” said Carolina Blake,
chief of the Ames Commercial Technology Office. “This proposed
center will complement NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe’s vision and
goals for the agency.”

Clark University is a private, coeducational research university with
2,000 undergraduate and 600 graduate students. Since its founding in
1887 as the first all-graduate school in the United States, Clark has
challenged convention with innovative programs such as the
International Studies Stream, the Strassler Family Center for
Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the five-year BA/MA programs with
the fifth year tuition-free.

Further information about Clark University is available at:


For information about the NASA Research Park, please see the project Web site:

Publication-size images of the signing ceremony and UAV Coffee
Project are available at: