The Denver Post recently ran a front-page story about drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) and their many useful, emerging applications. According to the article, “the Federal Aviation Administration … implemented separate rules for recreationalists and professional flyers in the private and public sectors. The FAA estimates that regulations could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and create more than 100,000 new jobs within a decade, as drone shipments quadruple over the next four years.” The featured photograph, showing a drone “lending a super hand,” was captioned, “Peter Downey, the chief pilot for Juniper Unmanned, flies a drone while conducting survey work involving oil wells at some fields in Thornton on Friday.”
In the excitement about drones, one might overlook the payload hanging below the drone—the device doing the sensing for the survey of the oil field. It is a compact and highly sensitive magnetometer, the result of technology transfer from Time and Frequency Division to Geometrics, a firm specializing in geophysical measurement instruments. The technology being employed is a chip-scale atomic magnetometer, which is based on the earlier innovations of the chip-scale atomic clock.
These devices are examples of embedded standards, which we continue to develop through the “NIST on a Chip” program. Embedded standards are intended to enable such innovation by advancing measurement science to meet practical needs.