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August 2, 2012

The Research Environment for Vehicle-Embedded Analysis on Linux (REVEAL) system is a prototype next-generation tool for aerospace vehicle sensor webs and the future Earth Observation System. Weighing under 12 pounds and able to fit into a volume only 8x6x16 inches, the REVEAL system, as tested, is a flexible "plug and play" sensor acquisition and processing system complete with an internal sensor suite and local area network hardware, and an open standards-based software framework for building dynamically reconfigurable network-centric vehicle- and environmental-monitoring systems. Eventually, Earth science researchers will be able to monitor and communicate with their own instruments and observe the vehicle operation in near real-time from their own lab or desktop.

Altair unmanned aerial vehicle
ER-2 aircraft
DC-8 flying laboratory

Aircraft currently flying with REVEAL instruments onboard.

Image Above. REVEAL Award-winning PC-104 design. NASA Photo by Tom Tschida

The REVEAL prototype is part of an effort to demonstrate affordable desktop access to globally deployable and dynamically reconfigurable data acquisition and processing networks on board future long endurance airborne sensor platforms. The REVEAL prototype is part of a larger effort to develop and demonstrate over-the-horizon communications and information networks evolving toward sustainable capabilities for Earth science operations using advanced and unpiloted vehicles. The "Earth Science Capabilities Development" project is a joint effort between NASA's Aeronautics Research and Earth Science Mission Directorates.

The system as built is essentially a "standard cross-platform package" providing a vehicle-independent dataset, communications gateway, and value-added signal processing for a vehicle payload network. Such a system and sensor network capability will be necessary to enable Earth science instruments to evolve command, control, and communications features independent of vehicle-specific interfaces. For example, near-real-time health/status of instrument activity and the ability to dynamically command and control instruments in flight are existing needs that must be met for Earth science researchers to be productive. If an instrument fails in flight, the situational awareness provided in near-real-time enables decision makers to collaborate in ways that ultimately save operations money and time. Conversely, the use of off-the-shelf network technology for acquiring sophisticated sets of state parameters enables instrument developers to accelerate their own development by avoiding interfaces to vehicle-specific systems. REVEAL helps establish layered sensor network architecture for the payloads and mitigates risks by promoting more affordable and modular systems integration.

Originally conceived as a test bed for airborne sensor web R&D, The REVEAL Suborbital Telepresence system is the product of five years of effort into the viability of the Linux operating system and open systems architectures for affordable vehicle-embedded network computing and "sensor web" applications. Features of REVEAL considered to be of significant value as a development tool include the use of XML to enable self-configuring and self-documenting software, self-generating metadata, inherent user-job security and isolation features, the ability to acquire and process data from remote peers, the ability to leverage multiple types of middleware for network processing, and a simple and open application programmer's interface to make hardware and software changes easier. The REVEAL software framework was recently awarded an honorable mention in NASA software of the year competition.

Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator