MDA 03-017 TITLE: Low Cost, High Altitude, Unmanned Sensor Platform

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Air Platform, Sensors


Objective: Develop a low cost unmanned air vehicle capable of carrying observation platforms to high altitude for

observation of missile launches and flights.

Description: With the increased reliance of weapons programs on simulation to support test and evaluation,

observation of missile test flights is critical to providing validation of those simulations. This is particularly

important in the boost phase of missile flight, where high-resolution data taken at high altitude is very useful. At the

same time, commercial off-the-shelf balloon technology has enabled university and amateur organizations to easily

exceed 100,00 feet altitude.1,2 This SBIR topic seeks innovative solutions to the problem of lifting a light-weight

observation platform to high altitudes using off-the-shelf balloon or airship components.

Phase I: Conduct design experiments to define the trade space of platform design / cost, observation altitude,

payload mass and cost. Provide a preliminary design that optimizes these design factors.

Phase II: Develop a prototype platform based on the preliminary design. Testing during this phase will emphasize

demonstration of lifting capability and vehicle controllability.

Phase III: This SBIR would have direct applicability to on-going and future test programs for missile defense

systems. In addition, increased vehicle endurance and application of low-observable technologies may allow this

platform to function in other intelligence and battlefield support roles. In addition to surveillance applications, there

are weather balloon applications.

Technologies in this area will have direct applicability to flexible, low cost airborne communications solutions being

developed for commercial applications. As a communications technology, it is anticipated that commercial and

industrial transferability and applicability will be high.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL: The technology could be applied to commercial applications,

such as cell phone tower replacement.


1. University of North Dakota High Altitude Balloon Project,

2. MSAM: Top Hat Program:

KEYWORDS: Low cost, High altitude, Optical, Boost-Phase, Balloon, Airship