Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The OAR ORTA UxSRTO is no longer operating.

For further information, please visit The Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) Uncrewed Systems Program webpage.

Aurora Flight Sciences Expands NOAA’s UAS Capabilities with Successful Commercialization of SBIR

Equipped with a Micro-G gravimeter, the Centaur optionally piloted aircraft will collect data for NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey

The NOAA Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program, Technology Partnerships Office and National Geodetic Survey (NGS), recently partnered with Aurora Flight Sciences on a successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) which has been commercialized for private and government use.  Starting March 13th and running for 25 days, the team plans to fly 90 hours from Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, NC to collect data for NGS’ Grav-D Program.  

The gravity data for the redefinition of the American Vertical Datum (GRAV-D) Program is proposed through the National Geodetic Survey to re-define the vertical datum of the US by 2022.  The gravity-based vertical datum resulting from this project will be accurate at the 2 cm level where possible for much of the Country and is included in the NGS 10 year plan. The project is currently underway and actively collecting gravity data across the United States and its holdings.  These flights are a follow-on to California’s High Speed Rail gravimetry flights which were conducted in 2016.  With a proven operational capabilities, the Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft is outfitted with a Micro-g gravimeter for this difficult mission. 

This aircraft flew NOAA missions in 2013, as Aurora teamed with Harvard University to integrate a greenhouse gas measurement system to the Centaur DA-42. The aircraft logged more than 60 hours of scientific data collection over the North Slope of Alaska, providing scientists with measurements of carbon dioxide and methane levels being released in the Arctic region. The research provided insight on the contributors to global warming and was critical in analyzing the rate of carbon addition to the atmosphere.

As the NOAA UAS Program continues to evaluate this platform to capture other NOAA requirements, the team has conducted a fit-check of the PEMDAS’ ASAPS (Atmospheric Sensing and Prediction System) technology for atmospheric sensor.  And in late 2016, Aurora partnered with OCEARCH, a world-leading marine conservation organization, to provide aerial support locating and tracking great white sharks off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The Centaur optionally piloted DA-42 aircraft (OPA) flew above the expedition area in a predetermined flight pattern to help scientists onboard the OCEARCH ship target, identify and track the location of the sharks in real time.

Remotely piloted by an air vehicle operator (AVO) onboard OCEARCH’s vessel, Centaur scanned the mission area with a FLIR 230 infrared sensor to pick up heat signatures and movements in the waters below. The live downlinked imagery from the sensor displayed on Centaur’s shipboard ground control station allowed OCEARCH to enhance their mission by widening their search capabilities through the use of this technology offering.

To learn more about Aurora and the capabilities of the Centaur OPA, visit