FY19 NOAA SBIR Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) Q&A
Below you will find questions and answers related to the FY19 NOAA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) NOFO. Please direct all questions to the NOAA SBIR Program Office central inbox at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions pertaining to subtopics (Section 9 of the NOFO) were due no later than December 5, 2018 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. That deadline has passed. No further questions about the current research topics/subtopics will be accepted. Answers will be posted as they are received from the appropriate technical representatives. Thank you for your patience.
Q1: Section 6.1 of funding opportunity document states Phase I applications must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday, January 8, 2019. January 8th is actually a Tuesday. Is the application due on Monday, January 7th, or Tuesday, January 8th?
A1: Proposals are due no later than 11:59pm on Tuesday, January 8, 2019.
Q2: Per the NOFO, a completed SBIR-STTR Information Form (or the SBIR Cover Sheet) is a required part of the Technical Proposal or Project Narrative. The Cover Sheet is counted as pages 1 and 2 of the Technical Proposal or Project Narrative. Can you provide a link to the cover page?
A2: The SBIR-STTR Information Form can be found in the Related Documents section of the announcement. That form must be filled out and will be considered the "SBIR Cover Sheet."
Q3: The last paragraph in section 8.1 of the funding opportunity document instructs us to attach the Project Narrative/Technical Proposal to the item 15 of SF424. However, I have downloaded the Grants.gov package for this opportunity, and it actually has a specific form page called the “Project Narrative Attachment Form” for the Project Narrative to be attached to. Since the funding opportunity wants the Project Narrative attached to the SF424 form instead, do we leave the “Project Narrative Attachment Form” blank, even though it is marked with an asterisk, indicating an attachment is mandatory? Or do we attach the Project Narrative to both places? The same question applies to the “Budget Narrative” – both the instructions under the “Budget Narrative” and the last paragraph in section 8.1 of the funding opportunity document instruct us to attach the Budget Narrative to the item 15 of SF424. However, the downloaded Grants.gov package has a specific form called “Budget Narrative Attachment Form.” Do we leave this form blank? Or do we attach the Budget Narrative to both places (the Budget Narrative form AND Item 15 of the SF424)?
A3: The instructions have been revised to clarify. Please revisit the NOFO for details.
Q4: Does the project abstract need to be attached as a separate document?
A4: Yes, be sure to attach the project abstract separately.
Q5: I downloaded the SBIR-STTR form and it appears it is not a fillable form. I get an error message when I attempt to type into it. Was it meant to be a fillable form? Or should I just use a typewriter to fill it out, and then “scan” it on a copier to pdf so I can upload it to item 15 of the SF424? I did download the form several times, both from the NOAA SBIR site and from the Grants.gov site, and was unable to type into either version of the form.
A5: Unfortunately, the form in question is the approved PDF version of that form. At this time, we cannot update the form. One option may be to use the Adobe Acrobat application to insert text into the various sections of the form.
Q6: Are we supposed to upload the SBIR-STTR form and the Project Narrative separately, as two separate documents? Or do we combine them into one document? I understand that the SBIR-STTR form serves as pages 1-2 of the project narrative and that the project narrative will be pages 3-25.
A6: Please combine the SBIR-STTR form (pages 1-2) and Project Narrative (pages 3-25) into one document.
Q7: We are a first-time grant applicant company. I created a grants.gov account and we have downloaded and begun working on the materials. However, the "Apply" button is grayed out so I am not sure how to submit/upload documents. The text "To start applying for this grant opportunity, your Organization must authorize you to Create Workspace or add you to an existing workspace." appears at the bottom of the page. Do I need to authorize myself or my account to apply for this grant? I'm curious why the "Apply" button would be unavailable. This would be the button that allows the single-user "Workspace" to be initiated, correct? Please advise.
A7: For questions about--or technical issues related to--the grants application website, please contact Grants.gov Support.
Q8: I work full time [with another organization that is not related to the SBIR grant]. Can I submit proposal for 20 hours per week by myself and 40 hours per week by my technical associate? Thank you in advance for clarifying the doubt.
A8: Primary employment of the principal investigator (PI) must be with the small business concern (SBC) at the time of the award and during the conduct of the proposed project. Primary employment means that more than one-half of the principal investigator’s time is spent in the employ of the SBC. Primary employment with a SBC precludes full-time employment with another organization.
Q9: It is not clear, does the Phase I letter of intent field need an entry [on the SBIR-STTR Information Form]? It is my understanding a letter of intent is not needed.
A9: It is not a required field. (For general information and application tips, check out the NOAA SBIR Grant Application Help Sheet.)
Q10: This file [the SBIR-STTR Information Form] is unable to be filled in and appears to need to be printed and filled in by hand.
A10: We are aware of this issue. Please see Q&A #5 above.
Q11: Are NOAA SBIRs contracts or grants?
A11: FY19 NOAA SBIR Phase I awards will be funded via grants.
RESEARCH TOPIC/SUBTOPIC QUESTIONS
Q1: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - What kinds (size, fixed vs rotary, general capabilities such as endurance and speed, etc.) of platforms does NOAA have or have interest in? How many may be acquired?
A1: This funding opportunity requests platform independent technologies that enable commercially available UASs to operate autonomously beyond current line-of-sight restrictions. It does not request ideas for new platforms. NOAA already operates a wide variety of UASs across its mission areas.
Q2: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms" - What TRL (Technology Readiness Level) is NOAA looking for, especially with respect to software solutions?
A2: This funding opportunity is for a Phase I SBIR grant, with the expectation of TRL 1-4.
Q3: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms" - Is NOAA interested in proposals for new vehicle designs as part of the "Next-Generation NOAA Platforms" subtopic in Section 9.5 of the FY19 NOFO document?
A3: No, not for this funding opportunity. There is already a wide range of commercially available UAS platform technologies that fills many of NOAA's needs. As noted above, this NOFO focuses on extending their autonomous operating range.
Q4: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - Could you let us know if the sUAS is flying high or low
(close to the ground so that they have to consider obstacles for navigation)?
A4: For this particular work, the majority of sUAS operations NOAA is likely to be conducting would be low altitude missions (1000m or less).It should also be noted that most of these operations would be in remote regions (e.g. Arctic over land and water; tropics over water (hurricanes) and mid-high latitude over water (other storms).The common issue for all these operations is more how to effectively and safely navigate beyond line of sight far from any deployment aircraft (for hundreds to possibly 1000km of sUAS operations) in areas that are not heavily populated.Object avoidance would primarily be the surface itself since low flight is desired in many cases.So for over land arctic missions any terrain or coastal/land boundaries/discontinuities and for open ocean, height assignment certain is required to account for how waves would impact a "moving" ocean surface.Avoidance of any large structures (boat over water and manmade structures over land) would be uncommon but a likely necessary requirement from a safety compliance standpoint.
Q5: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - Is the intent of this call is to understand the scene using
onboard sensors and compute a navigation path for a particular mission
"such as follow coastal lines"?
A5: Yes, coastal mapping/following for a mission could be a specific application for this work.Essentially what NOAA would like to have as a result of this call is an ability to have "situational awareness" to operate a small UAS long distances (well beyond line of sight) at relatively low altitudes (1km and lower) in a way that the vehicle can (safely) meet the science objectives using all onboard science sensors and navigational/telemetry streams.
Q6: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - What kind of environmental sensors are typically available for such flights?
A6: The sensors used would vary greatly based upon the science requirement in question.Base information that is likely to be desired for most missions would be the inclusion of small lightweight, low power draw sensors that measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, sea surface temperature.Onboard GPS would also help with respect to estimates for wind speed and direction.In addition, to help ascertain a reliable estimate for altitude (for low flying missions like hurricane surveillance) would be a good idea to.For that a laser altimeter would be a good choice. For some science a way to get 3D winds to determine turbulence would be required.Other sensors to be used on sUAS might include atmospheric aerosols and sensors measuring various atmospheric chemistry constituents. This description is by no means a full listing of possible sensors that NOAA may choose to use. The other big (non-science specific) 'sensor suite' available on all sUAS NOAA would be onboard autopilot data (ground speed, airspeed, side slip, yaw, angle of attack, etc).Effective use of these "standard" navigational data are likely to be critical for a call such as this.
Q7: Topic 9.6 "Next-Generation Observation and Modeling Systems"/Subtopic 9.6.02 "Improve Coastal Ocean Models" - Do we need to use a Finite Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM) for the proposal or can we propose a software package that uses the Finite Element method?
A7: Finite Volume Community Ocean Model (FVCOM) or Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) since the systems we are seeking to improve on temperature and salinity performance are based on those two community ocean modeling systems.
Q8: Topic 9.6 "Next-Generation Observation and Modeling Systems"/Subtopic 9.6.02 "Improve Coastal Ocean Models" - Are the models to be run on a desktop, linux cluster, or HPC?
A8: HPC - the models will run on the supercomputers that are operated and maintained by National Weather Service/NCEP.
Q9: Topic 9.6 "Next-Generation Observation and Modeling Systems"/Subtopic 9.6.02 "Improve Coastal Ocean Models" - Do we need to consider fisheries management, water intake, and public health? Or can we focus on 1 or 2 of these areas?
A9: 1, 2 or all for defining the performance improvement metric for temperature and salinity. These sectors were provided largely as example applications to demonstrate why there is a need for improved temperature and salinity forecasting skill. There are likely others as well.
Q10: Topic/Subtopic Undefined - Our consortium has conducted experiments on new, affordable oyster post-harvest purification methods to remove vibrios and other human pathogens, and seeks funds for additional R&D. Although your RFP focuses on vibrio (and pollutants and toxins) detection methodologies in shellfish, and genetic improvements for their health, would vibrio reduction methodologies align sufficiently with the FY 19 NOAA SBIR goals and priorities?
A10: [Response from a National Ocean Service (NOS) representative] - From my perspective, Vibrio reduction technologies would be relevant to the SBIR topic (communicating information on the presence of specific water borne pathogens). [Response from a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) representative] - I would make the argument that it may also be relevant to 9.1.02, based on the phrase "actionable results,"--even though 9.1.01 focuses on detection, this is Vibrio specific and still meets the intent of the subtopic. There may be some concern that if there's no detection component and this technology is applied to all harvested product, regardless of whether or not it's been shown to carry pathogenic Vibrio, that states won't certify the product as safe for consumption. Another way to put it is, there needs to be some kind of validation of it's efficacy, meaning detection capability is still a crucial piece of the puzzle (was Vibrio there to begin with, and did this method safely remove it?).
Q11: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - What software and analysis does your current computer run while in-flight? And, what analysis is performed after the captured in-flight data is retrieved?
A11: We envision the solution software to run on a stand alone platform (groundstation/laptop).
Q12: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - What types of sensors are currently used on the sUAS?
A12: Many sensor options exist. The individual science project will dictate specific payload used. That said, basic meteorological information including atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind direction can be expected (in addition to flight information from the onboard autopilot yaw pitch toll heading etc.).
Q13: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - How/When does the team interface with the equipment onboard (real-time, manual data extraction, satellite)?
A13: Assume Real time. Satellite navigation likely to be used as part of that real time interaction. Operators would be remote since long remote sUAS flight is envisioned.
Q14: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - Understanding the FAA requirements for weight, are there any recommendations on the smallest or largest form factor that should be considered? (e.g. have different form factors caused instability)
A14: Under 55 lb.
Q15: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - What power specifications can you provide on previously used sUAS?
A15: No specific guidance, but solution should not require a large power draw that would limit range and or operation of other critical sUAS systems.
Q16: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms"/Subtopic 9.5.01 "Advanced Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Observing Platforms" - How important is real-time data analysis onboard the sUAS? How effective has this been in the past?
A16: Real time data transmission is key for NOAA operational support . Real time data comms would presumably be required to successfully navigate the sUAS as well. Advance Post processing (graphics, etc.) for analyses would be secondary in nature and could be delayed (not real time).
Q17: Topic 9.5 "Next Generation NOAA Platforms" - [Company name redacted] has developed a next generation marine robotic platform and is interested to apply for an SBIR Phase 1 grant. The category that seems to make the most sense for us is “Next Generation NOAA Platforms”. However, looking at the details in “9.6.01 Low-cost Oceanic and Atmospheric Sensors and Observing Systems” made us concerned that it is focused on sensors and QC hardware/software and might not include a robotic platform itself...We would appreciate knowing if autonomous, marine robotic platforms are also of interest.
A17: You are correct in that sub-topic 9.6.01 specifies a need for platform-independent sensors and observing systems, but there is also a broader need for expanding "observational capabilities relevant to marine ecosystems, ocean processes, atmospheric observations and interfacial processes...," which would in principle allow for new platform concepts.