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Advanced Air Traffic Management for Traditional Aviation Operations


Scope Title:

Advanced Air Traffic Management for Traditional Aviation Operations

Scope Description:

NASA has delivered advanced technologies to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to improve the efficiency of operations in our National Airspace System (NAS), and we are working on capabilities to make NAS operations more efficient and sustainable. The FAA has recently developed a plan for modernization of the airspace, infrastructure, and safety assurance capabilities to transition to a more automated and information-centric system in the 2035 timeframe. This vision is called Info-Centric NAS. NASA is also working closely with the FAA and the aviation community to develop a vision and research roadmap for the future of aviation in the next 25 years and beyond: a concept called Sky for All, which seeks to develop an airspace that is scalable, accessible, safe, sustainable, and resilient, enabling seamless access for all. As we look toward the future of aviation, the diversity, density, complexity, and volume of proposed operations necessitates a number of paradigm shifts to ensure system scalability and the evolution from trajectory-based operations to collaborative and highly automated operations.

This subtopic is intended to spur or accelerate the development of new air traffic management concepts, techniques, tools, and technologies that will improve the efficiency, capacity, and/or environmental compatibility of "conventional" civil aviation operations in the NAS—commercial airline operations that most of the American public has contact with today.

Proposals should target current-day operations, near-term future operations (circa 2035), or far-term future operations (circa 2045). For perspective on operations in the latter timeframes, proposers may consider the FAA’s “Info-Centric NAS” vision for 2035 and NASA’s “Sky for All" vision for 2045.

Areas of interest include, but are not limited to: 

  • Airspace services or capabilities that are scalable and adaptation-independent using advanced methods such as machine learning or artificial intelligence.
  • Digital routing and rerouting around weather and constrained airspace resources using ground-based or cockpit-based systems.
  • Advanced tools or methods that enable or accelerate the transition to safe, end-to-end trajectory-based operations (TBO) for domestic and oceanic airspace.
  • Capabilities that facilitate the scalable integration of autonomous or remotely piloted cargo aircraft (i.e., large unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)) into the conventional NAS structure using conventional (or similar) procedures, including teaming collaborations between the human operator and the autonomous agent/technology for operations involving a remote pilot (during near-term and far-term operations).

Proposals that focus on any of the following areas will not be considered, as they are are outside the scope of this subtopic: small UAS operations, advanced air mobility (AAM) operations, electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft operations, Class E airspace operations, and Upper Class E airspace operations.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 4

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 16.3 Traffic Management Concepts
  • Level 2 16 Air Traffic Management and Range Tracking Systems

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Software

Desired Deliverables Description:

Technologies that can advance safe and efficient growth in global operations (Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) Thrust 1 Goal) that can be incorporated into existing and future NASA concepts.

Phase I deliverables may take the form of a prototype/proof-of-concept decision-support tool, automation, and/or service; a proof-of-concept demonstration of the underlying architecture; and/or validation of the approach taken, which shows focus on a particular aspect or use case of the research and development (R&D) challenge being investigated.

Phase II deliverables would presumably take the form of higher TRL tools/decision-support services that convincingly demonstrate a solution to the proposed R&D challenge. 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

State of the art: NASA has been researching advanced air transportation concepts and technologies to improve commercial aviation operations in the NAS.

Critical gaps: Significant challenges remain in integrating air transportation technologies across different domains and operators (e.g., airport surface and terminal area; airport authority and air navigation service providers; etc.), providing comprehensive strategic scheduling and traffic management technologies, enabling concepts that will allow for increased demand and complexity of operations, and enabling recovery from the global-pandemic-induced air transportation system impacts. 

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP) within ARMD.

Successful technologies in this subtopic have helped to advance the air traffic management/airspace operations objectives of the AOSP and have resulted in successful technology transfer to external stakeholders (including the FAA and the air transportation industry).


NASA Airspace Operations and Safety Program website:

FAA's "Info-Centric NAS" Vision:

NASA's "Sky for All" website:


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