Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

HyLIPS Report Summary

Project ID: 729463

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HyLIPS (Hyperspectral Lightweight Imagers for micro-PlatformS)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

"Sofasi srl is based in Sesto Fiorentino and Firenze (Italy), and is committed to the development, design, manufacturing and testing of instruments for remote sensing, laboratory and in-field measurement. Since its foundation, Sofasi srl has been involved in several activities for the development and production of instruments and their characterization. Sofasi srl developed and manufactured an OGSE for carrying out the testing (in a thermal vacuum chamber) the star trackers produced by Leonardo SpA (Florence, Italy) – Space LoB (formerly Selex ES SpA and Finmeccanica SpA) for the new Iridium Next mission. Following an order from the University of Milano Bicocca (Milano, Italy), Sofasi srl developed a measurement system named Pollutant Detection System (PDS), which includes two instruments devoted to the identification of pollutants and the assessment of their abundances in the atmosphere. The system is utilized mainly for the monitoring of vehicle urban traffic although it is able to observe other sources of pollutants. In the framework of a technical collaboration grant commissioned by the firm Sitael SpA, Sofasi srl has designed and developed the laboratory prototype of an imaging interferometer named Shira operating in the thermal infrared spectral range. The instrument, an imaging interferometer in the triangular Sagnac configuration, cover the 7 um - 14 um spectral range and is able to reconstruct up to one hundred adjacent spectral channels. Sofasi srl developed, for Leonardo SpA (Florence, Italy) – Space LoB, an afocal telescope (Keplerian-like configuration) operating in the visible and infrared spectral ranges, up to 2500 nm of wavelength. This two-mirror (off-axis parabolas) telescope has an overall focal length around 1 m, and a size that exceeds 2 m. Sofasi srl has developed a sophisticated OGSE for testing the performance of the forthcoming Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) that should be embarked in the next Euclid mission of the European Space Agency. This FGS OGSE has unprecedented ability controlling a synthetic star-like source put in front of the experimented attitude sensor. The synthetic source can be moved with a precision of a few nm and its brightness can be controlled electronically over more than seven orders of magnitude. The new OGSE is also able to determine the orientation of the matrix array detector under test.
Relying on its impressive technical capacity and the long technical experience of its team, Sofasi srl deployed a new project aiming at the realization of a novel cutting edge technology in the sector of ultracompact hyperspectral imagers for Earth observation and planetary exploration. The Project "Hyperspectral Lightweight Imagers for micro-PlatformS" (HyLIPS) was then submitted to the SMA Instrument call, and got the support for the Phase 1 activities. The HyLIPS project is devoted to the development and commercialization of two types ultra-light hyperspectral imagers, one specifically designed to be hosted by microsatellites therefore devoted to the space market, and the other designed for drones and unmanned aircrafts, targeted toward a broader market. The sensors can be partially scaled in order to be hosted by various types of platforms optimizing payload performance and budget requirements. The HyLIPS sensors can be hosted by several micro-platforms whose utilization is growing fast. The market shows a fast increasing offer of drones and microsatellites and is characterized by a substantial inadequacy of miniaturized payloads. The lack of reliable payloads with small mass and power absorption is the main obstacle to the diffusion and utilization of the micro-platforms for scientific and professional applications. Often, miniaturized RGB cameras represent the most common sensor available for drones, while the offer of payloads for microsatellites is almost vanishing. The development (availability) of new payloads with improved discrimination ability would boost the market of platforms and payloads, as well as their practical applications. It is worth noting that the availability of smart sensors suitable to be hosted by microplatforms, would expand the market and the applications of planetary exploration, and should be essential to any perspective of commercial utilization of space resources. This availability might be important even for the programs of space and alien plantes colonization.
With the HyLIPS project, Sofasi aimed at two key strategic objectives:
• innovate the offer to its regular clients related to the space market (space agencies, public institutions, universities). To date Sofasi srl is committed to the testing of instruments for remote sensing, laboratory and in-field measurement. The new sensor will face another need of this type of clients, increasing enormously Sofasi’s business opportunities.
• radically change its positioning in the business, from its previous state of consultancy firm, to a high-tech small producer. The idea behind the project was that over a medium-term horizon, Sofasi srl will reach a new and wide market share (unmanned aircrafts market) thanks to the imagers designed to be hosted by drones.
The methodology Sofasi adopted for this Project embeded the most important tendencies affirmed in the aerospace sector: (1) the adoption of commercial grade components wherever possible to mitigate the costs of sensor development, and operations; (2) sensor miniaturization and performance scalability that heavily reduce the launch fee (microsatellites) and open the way to a wider utilization of drones; (3) off the shelf payload (ready-when-needing), strongly reducing time-to-market with respect to traditional payloads; (4) mitigation of cost and activity related to space qualification, even accepting a higher degree of faulty payload.
The obtained sensors have a mass comprised between 0.3-0.6 kg, with a power absorption of few Watts, and a linear size not exceeding 0.16 m. These sensors are entirely assembled stemming from commercial-grade components and materials, and can be hosted by whatever drone or unmanned plane due to their completeness and full autonomy: each sensor has its own power supply (battery operated) and radio link for telemetry. Therefore, the HyLIPS action achieved all its goals, from the sensor miniaturization, to the reduced cost and time-to-market. The next HyLIPS challenge is now the industrialization of such technology, leading to a full industrial application of the HyLIPS sensors.
In this framework, the Sofasi's team is able to support its customers in any phase of data processing and remote sensing product generation. The team has a long experience in the field of signal calibration (spectral and radiometric), geographic registration of remotely sensed images, atmospheric corrections, and generation of at ground maps of spectral reflectance."

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The Project was devoted to:
• Study the optimal configurations of the new sensors for various Earth Observation applications. In this sense, it was important to deduce which functions and features should be installed in which sensor model, in order to satisfy as much as possible the user requests while taking the price as low as possible.
• Execute the necessary procurement activity in order to identify the components and materials to be integrated in the new sensors. This activity was also essential for the assessment of the new sensor performance.
• Investigate the economic feasibility of the Project and thoroughly assess the potential and the level of opportunity of the pursued innovation.
• Evaluate the effort required to achieve some form of intellectual property protection for the sensor technology developed in the framework of the HyLIPS Project. One of the main obstacles hindering this option is represented by the huge costs connected with the development and maintenance of international patents. An additional aspect which possibly conflicts with a possible request of patent protection is the specific HyLIPS aim to develop new sensors utilizing only commercial-grade parts and materials.
• Identify the most viable commercialization strategy and structure to be adopted in order to exploit the new product. The development of the HyLIPS Project led to the natural evolution of the commercial strategy designed by the Sofasi's team at the epoch of Proposal submission. Nowadays, Sofasi plans to pursue two principal commercialization strategies: autonomous sale model and collaborative sale. Autonomous Sale is a traditional strategy of trade in which Sofasi is identified by the customers as producer and seller of the HyLIPS products. Collaborative Sale is a model of trade in which Sofasi is associated with some external enterprise to sell some item that is cooperatively produced by Sofasi and the associated enterprise. For this case, we have identified a producer of drones whose commercial offer could be supplemented by the HyLIPS hyperspectral imagers. The technical characteristics (autonomy and compactness) of the HyLIPS instruments play an essential role to this purpose. Simply, the future customer could buy a drone already outfitted with its hyperspectral imager and completed with the needing SW package and services.
• Derive a business plan for the exploitation of the proposed payload and the associated services. The business plan addressed two different aspects of innovation: the creation of a new line of products and the potential business shift of the company as a consequence of the larger production. The business plan analyzed investments (costs and returns) for activities related to extending the new sensors beyond the initial markets in which it will be launched.

The main technical objectives of the Project were attained, bringing to the development of two prototypes of the HyLIPS hyperspectral imagers with slightly different characteristics.

Feature HyLIPS achievemnt
Cross-track pixels < 4096 (maximum)
Number of spectral bands < 3072 (maximum)
FOV < 60o (maximum)
Spectral bandwidth > 10 nm
Explored Spectral Range 450 nm - 850 nm
Quantization accuracy < 10 bit (maximum)
Configuration of image acquisition Programmable (binning & line decimation)
Configuration of spectral acquisition Programmable (binning & spectral band decimation)
Operative height TBD
Registration unit capacity 32 Gb
Battery Pack Autonomy 45 min
Mass < 500 g
Linear size < 150 mm
Specifications and principal technical features of the HyLIPS hyperspectral imager.

The Table above summarizes the performance of a typical HyLIPS hyperspectral imager. We remark that the HyLIPS instrument implement the novel concept of sensor scalability, in which the instrument performance can be easily scaled up and down in order to best match the user needs and the platform characteristics. As an example, the number of acquired spectral bands can be freely chosen by the user together with their bandwidth and spectral position. Also the number of across track pixel can be freely chosen by the user adopting strategies such as detector binning and data decimation.
The HyLIPS represents a new concept of compact and autonomous hyperspectral imagers. This new type of instruments is able to perform Earth observations at high spatial and spectral resolution, being suitable to be embarked over ultralight platforms since the sensor volume, mass, and power are extremely tiny. HyLIPS imagers are fully autonomous and complete instruments, which do not demand for platform power, telemetry (down link), and data recording system.

We developed this unprecedented type of remote sensing instruments relying only on commercial grade components and materials, following an approach in which the instrument always is ready when necessary, "off the shelf". In its turn, this feature means that the HyLIPS sensor is an affordable option for building up even a complete laboratory for airborne remote sensing without performance reduction with respect to traditional instruments, large and expensive.

The Project has been "nominated" (request to apply received by Sofasi on April 2016) to the worldwide technological challenge known as "Hello Tomorrow". HyLIPS was then submitted to this contest, which selects each year the best innovation ventures over five continents divided into ten application tracks or sectors (see http://hello-tomorrow.org/. These tracks are:
• Aeronautics
• Environment
• Wellbeing
• Edtech
• Energy
• Food & Agriculture
• Biotech
• Industry 4.0
• Mobility
• Medtech.
Hello Tomorrow is a global non-profit organization with headquarter in Paris (France) that aims to accelerate Sci&Tech innovation by empowering startups with cash prizes and connections with prospective investors. It was created in 2011 by Xavier Duportet & Arnaud de la Tour. Although supported also by the French public sectors, Hello Tomorrow remains an independent organization governed by entrepreneurs. For its participation to this challenge, the HyLIPS initiative has been recognized with a partial assignment: the Project has been selected, among more than 3,000 projects, as part of Hello Tomorrow’s TOP 500 early-stage science startups worldwide. On average, the HyLIPS Proposal scored among the best 50 proposals worldwide in the track of Aeronautics.

In order to give broader visibility to HyLIPS, a homonymous Project has been created over the Research Portal called "ResearchGate". ResearchGate is an independent (non governmental) scientific initiative built by scientists, for scientists. It was started when two researchers discovered that collaborating with a friend or colleague on the other side of the world was at all a complex task. Founded in 2008 by Dr. Ijad Madisch and Dr. Sören Hofmayer (physicians), and Horst Fickenscher (computer scientist), ResearchGate today has more than 11 million members. The mission of the ResearchGate Portal is to connect the world of science and make research open to all. The principal features of the Project HyLIPS can be found on ResearchGate at the following URL: https://www.researchgate.net/project/HyLIPS.

The International Consortium of Consultants, named LC Innoconsult ~ Primary Care Innovation Consulting ~ Japan Technology Group got in touch with the Sofasi's team on August 2016. The reason behind the LC Innoconsult looking was that this Consortium was "assigned by EU-Japan Industrial Center (acting on behalf of METI and the European Commission) to find and present for their consideration some of the best industrial innovation from European countries that could be commercialized in Japan". That activity was not a survey "but an action oriented project in the framework of EU-Japan industrial dialogue aimed to assist Japanese partners and advise in prioritization of their investment targets". The LC Innoconsult was particularly interested to identify innovative civil technologies and B2B oriented projects that have not yet had broad international exposure. The HyLIPS Project has been proposed and is now being considered as a potential business opportunity for Japanese industries, and investors."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"The Project HyLIPS allowed the Sofasi's team to develop a new concept of compact and autonomous hyperspectral imagers. The new type of instruments as far obtained is able to perform Earth observations at high spatial and spectral resolution, being suitable to be embarked over ultralight platforms since the sensor volume, mass, and power are extremely tiny. HyLIPS imagers are fully autonomous and complete instruments that not demand for platform power, telemetry (down link), and data recording system. Moreover, the realized technology achieves the sensor scalability concept, that permits instrument performance and power absorption to be adjusted according to the user requests and the platform size. In a different wording, the HyLIPS hyperspectral sensors always are the best choice for remote sensing campaigns for any available aerial platforms you would adopt and remote sensing application you can pursue.
The HyLIPS Project allowed us to develop this unprecedented type of remote sensing instruments relying only on commercial grade components and materials, following an approach in which the instrument always is ready when necessary, "off the shelf". In its turn, this feature means that the HyLIPS sensors are an affordable option for building up even a complete laboratory for airborne remote sensing without performance reduction with respect to traditional instruments, large and expensive. Any HyLIPS instrument is equipped with an impressive list of high precision supplementary sensors that monitor the value of important ancillary and house-keeping data. Among them we recall the GPS position (3d), the gyro (3d) data, accelerometer (3d), magnetometer (3d), down-welling irradiance (4 channels) measured on board, as well as atmospheric temperature, pressure and relative humidity. We point out that the availability of such a variety of ancillary data is almost never allowed, even by traditional sensors. On the other hand, this ancillary information is necessary to deploy any quantitative applications of remote sensing.
Last but not the least. The extraordinarily good news is that the Sofasi's team also supports its customers in any phase of data processing and product generation. This team has extraordinary experience in the field of signal calibration (spectral and radiometric), geographic registration of remotely sensed images, atmospheric corrections, and generation of L2 remote sensing products such as the at ground maps of spectral reflectance. Moreover, Sofasi has the laboratory and data processing facility to calibrate your sensor and process your data: HyLIPS it is a real "turn key" occurrence."

Related information

Record Number: 195187 / Last updated on: 2017-02-22