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Advanced Air Traffic Management for Nontraditional Airspace Operations

Description:

Scope Title:

Nontraditional Aviation Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)

Scope Description:

This scope is focused on AAM airspace operations only and is not accepting proposals specific to other nontraditional operations. In addition, proposals that focus only on cyber-resiliency solutions without proposing specific AAM services will be rejected.

This subtopic seeks proposals with application to AAM including:

  • Service-based architecture designs that enable greater scalability of AAM operations.
  • Dynamic route planning that considers changing environmental conditions, vehicle performance and endurance, and airspace congestion and traffic avoidance.
  • Dynamic scheduling for on-demand access to constrained resources and interaction between vehicles with starkly different performance and control characteristics.
  • Integration of emergent users with legacy users, large commercial transport, including pass-through to and from ultra-high altitudes and interactions around major airports.
  • Operational concepts for fleet and network management, market need and growth potential for future operations, and airspace integration.
  • Identification of potential certification approaches for new vehicle operations (such as electric vertical takeoff and landing).
  • Bridging the gap between current-day operations and future operations with state-of-the-art concepts, technologies, and critical gaps as it pertains to teaming collaborations between the human operator and the autonomous agent/technology in current and future National Airspace System (NAS) operations.
    • Increased human-autonomy teaming is needed to accommodate the increasing demand, complexity, and diversity of air transportation missions and operations.

Future service-based architectures also require resiliency to cyberattacks to ensure safe and robust operations that maintain expected levels of safety, as well as accommodating changes to environmental and operational conditions. Therefore, proposals should incorporate cyber-resiliency methods, tools, or capabilities, or address cyber-resiliency as part of the proposed effort. However, proposals focused exclusively on cybersecurity will be rejected. 

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 (ARMD Thrust 1 Goal) as well as developing autonomy applications for aviation (as under ARMD Thrust 6) that are specifically applicable to AAM operations and address postpandemic recovery, as appropriate
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:

Current state of the art: NASA has been researching advanced air transportation concepts and technologies to improve the viability and scalability of AAM operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Critical gaps: Significant challenges remain to fully develop the AAM airspace concept of operations, including:

  • Integrating air transportation technologies across different domains and operators.
  • Providing comprehensive, strategic scheduling and traffic management technologies.
  • Enabling concepts that will allow for scaling demand and complexity of operations. 

This subtopic is focused on airspace operations for the AAM concept only. Proposals must have clear application to AAM airspace operations. Proposals that focus on AAM vehicle capabilities or onboard vehicle technologies or systems will be rejected. Proposals that are specific to other nontraditional operations (e.g., space traffic management, automated air cargo, UTM, and ultra-high altitude operations) without clear application to AAM will be rejected.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

  • Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP).
  • Air Traffic Management-eXploration (ATM-X) Project.
  • Successful technologies in this subtopic will help NASA pioneer AAM concepts and technologies and scale them up to meet the needs of everyday travelers. The technologies may also leverage new autonomy/artificial intelligence/data science methods and approaches.

References:

Scope Title:

Nontraditional Aviation Operations for Wildfire Response

Scope Description:

In the United States, wildfires are becoming increasingly severe and costly in terms of acreage burned, property damaged, and most importantly, lives lost. Wildfire frequency and intensity is escalating, inducing budgetary, personnel, and equipment challenges. Furthermore, California and other western states have been facing persistent drought conditions and much hotter temperatures, which are fueling wildfire intensity and duration. These alarming trends have made it urgent to recognize how wildfires could be better predicted, mitigated, and managed.

NASA's history of contributions to wildfire and other disaster management includes remote sensing, instrumentation, mapping, data fusion, and prediction. More recently, the NASA ARMD has been investigating capabilities to help manage wildfire suppression and mitigation efforts through technologies for coordination of airspace operations for wildfire management.

NASA ARMD has recently made significant contribution to enable widespread use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) by developing air traffic management capabilities for low-altitude unmanned vehicle operations, called UAS Traffic Management (UTM). This work is being adapted to safely and efficiently integrate larger Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) vehicles and operations with existing operations and mission types. NASA recognizes the value these capabilities could provide when applied to the aerial wildfire management domain.

Current applications of aviation to wildfire management include deployment of smoke-jumpers to a fire; transport of firefighters, equipment, and supplies; fire retardant or water drop; reconnaissance of fire locations and fire behavior; and supervision of air tactical operations.

Current challenges of aerial wildfire management include these:

  • Existing airspace management techniques are manual and cannot accommodate the demand for new types of aircraft (e.g., unmanned aircraft).
  • Aerial firefighting is limited to acceptable visual conditions (no night operations).
  • Monitoring and remote sensing missions are intermittent, flown outside of active fire-fighting or available periodically from satellite assets.
  • There is a lack of reliable, resilient, and secure data communications for quick information dissemination to support effective decision making.

NASA is seeking technologies to:

  • Provide strategic planning capabilities to collect, process, and disseminate information that enables persistent monitoring of wildland fire conditions (e.g., satellites, conventional aircraft, and UAS).
  • Provide strategic planning and tracking capabilities to enable the most effective use of ground crews, ground equipment, and aircraft during operations (e.g., both at a single incident and across multiple incidents).
  • Provide strategic planning capabilities that support multimission planning to support efficient mission assignments to support concurrent operations (e.g., air attack and search and rescue).
  • Provide an extension to the UTM network that considers the unique needs and characteristics of wildfire disaster situations (e.g., nonconnected environments) and the response to combat them.
  • Increase the throughput of available communications, reduce the latency of data transfer, provide interoperability with existing communication solutions, and provide a reliable network for the use of UAS, other aviation assets, and emergency responders on the ground. 
  • Provide a mobile position, navigation, and timing solution to support automated operations (e.g., automated precision water drops) in Global Positioning System- (GPS-) degraded environments (e.g., mountainous canyons).
  • Provide wildland fire prediction, airspace coordination, and resource tracking for a common operating picture for situational awareness that supports various stakeholders in the incident command structure (e.g., incident commander, air tactical group supervisor, aircraft dispatch, UAS pilot, etc.).
  • Ensure highest safety and efficiency of operations.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 5

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:

Phase I deliverables may include 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 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:

The current state of the art for coordination of aerial fire fighting is a manual process that must be coordinated across multiple entities, often bringing multiple aerial assets to the wildfire fighting environment. Advanced tools and techniques are required to address the following gaps:

  • Existing airspace management process is very manual and slow.
  • Awareness of aircraft operations is conducted by visual monitoring and radio communication.
  • Unmanned systems are not easily integrated into aerial fire suppression operations.
  • Operations are limited by visibility and no operations are conducted at night, when fires often die back.
  • Surveillance images are captured and disseminated only every 4 hours.
  • Intermittent communication can delay effective response.
  • Conditions can rapidly change, requiring timely information for effective decision making. 
  • Decision makers for emergency response are overloaded with data.
  • Information requirements differ for various roles within the disaster response.
  • Tools and data are often spread across numerous applications.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Due to climate change, wildfires are becoming increasingly more frequent and severe. Fire seasons are longer, lasting 6 to 8 months; in some cases, fire season is year-round. The 2020 fire season was the worst in recorded history, burning over 4 million acres of land, destroying more than 8,500 structures, and killing more than 30 people. The economic impact of these fires is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and results in lasting societal impact. The annual cost of fire suppression has soared from roughly $425 million per year in 1999 to $1.6 billion in 2019.

On June 30, 2021, President Biden and Vice President Harris met with Governors from western states, Cabinet officials, and private-sector partners to discuss specific actions the public and private sectors are each taking to strengthen prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts to protect communities across our country from wildfires and their devastating impacts. The President directed a number of actions, in close coordination with State and local governments and the private sector, to ensure the Federal Government can most effectively protect public safety and deliver assistance to our people in times of urgent need.

References:

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