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Advanced Air Traffic Management for Traditional Aviation Missions


Scope Title:

AdvancedAir Traffic Management for Traditional AviationMissions


NASA has a decades-long record of deliveringadvanced technologies to the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) to improve the efficiency of operations inthe National Airspace System (NAS) and is working ondeveloping capabilities to make NAS operations more efficient,sustainable, and scalable. The FAA has developed a vision formodernizing operations, supporting infrastructure, andintegrated safety management toaccommodate greater diversity and a higher number ofoperations within the NAS through the introduction of new, extensibletraffic management services while simultaneously bringing improvementsto traditional Air Traffic Services. This vision is called“Info-Centric NAS.” NASA continues to workclosely with the FAA and the larger aviation community todevelop a vision and research roadmap for the future of aviation overthe next 25 years and beyond—a concept called “Skyfor All” that seeks to develop an airspace that is scalable,accessible, safe, sustainable, and resilient, enabling seamless accessfor all. As we look toward the future of aviation, thediversity, density, complexity, and volume of proposed operationsnecessitates a number of paradigm shifts to ensure system scalabilityand the evolution from trajectory-based operations to collaborative andhighly automated operations.

This subtopic isintended to spur or accelerate the development of new air trafficmanagement concepts, techniques, tools, and technologies that willimprove the efficiency, scalability, and environmentalcompatibility of "traditional" civil aviation missionsin the NAS, that is, transporting people and goods hundreds orthousands of miles across the country or around theworld.

Proposals maytarget current-day operations, near-term future operations (circa 2035),or far-term future operations (circa 2045). For perspective onoperations in the latter timeframes, proposers may consider theFAA’s “Info-Centric NAS” vision for 2035and NASA’s “Sky for All" vision for2045.

Areas of interestinclude, but are not limited to:

  • Airspace services or capabilities that are scalableand adaptation-independent using advanced methods such as machinelearning or artificial intelligence.
  • Tools and methods to facilitate teaming andcollaboration between human operators and the autonomousagents/technologies needed to realize a more scalable airspace system(i.e., human-autonomy teaming). Objectives:
    • Improve the effectiveness or efficiency with whichhuman operators work with increasingly autonomous airspacesystems.
    • Leverage the benefits of human operator expertiseand participation in the airspace system.
    • Address challenges associated with integrating newtechnologies in the airspace environment that involve humanparticipation/decision making.
  • Digital services and technologies to facilitate anintegrated airspace for crewed, remotely crewed, or highlyautonomous aircraft. Examples include:
    • Services for an integrated information environmentthat facilitates the exchange of real-time operationalinformation.
    • Automated algorithms that can handle complexseparation assurance practices.
    • Trajectory management methods that equitablymitigate weather hazards and constrained airspace resources whileoptimizing for cost, schedule, and/or environmental considerations usingground-, cockpit-, and/or cloud-based systems.
  • Advanced tools or methods that improve thepredictability of airspace operations, thereby accelerating thetransition to safe, end-to-end trajectory-based operations (TBO) fordomestic and oceanic airspace.
  • Capabilities that facilitate the scalableintegration of autonomous or remotely piloted cargo aircraft (i.e.,large, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)) into the conventional airspacestructure using conventional (or similar) procedures.

Proposals thatfocus exclusively on one or more of the following types of operationswill not be considered, as they are outside the scope of thissubtopic:

  • Small UAS operations (e.g., UASTraffic Management, also known as UTM).
  • Advanced air mobility (AAM)operations.
  • Electricvertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft operations.
  • Class E airspaceoperations.
  • Upper Class E airspaceoperations.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 1 to 4

Primary TechnologyTaxonomy:

  • Level 1 16.3Traffic Management Concepts
  • Level 216 Air Traffic Management and Range TrackingSystems

DesiredDeliverables of Phase I and PhaseII:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype
  • Software

DesiredDeliverables Description:
NASA’s intentis to select proposals that have the potential to move a criticaltechnology and concepts beyond Phase II SBIR funding and transition itto Phase III, where NASA’s aeronautics programs, anothergovernment agency, or a commercial entity in the aeronautics sector canfund further maturation as needed, leading to actual usage in futureairspace operations. The Phase I outcome should establish thescientific, technical, and commercial feasibility of the proposedinnovation in fulfillment of NASA objectives and broaderaviation community needs. Phase I should demonstrateadvancement of a specific technology or techniques, supported byanalytical and experimental studies that are documented in a finalreport. Phase II efforts could yield: (1) modelssupported with experimental data, (2) software related to a model thatwas developed, (3) a material system or prototype tool, or (4) modelingtools for incorporation in software, etc. that can be infused into aNASA project or lead to commercialization of thetechnology. Consequently, Phase II efforts are strengthenedwhen they include a partnership with a potential end-user of thetechnology.

Phase Iaward recipients must be thinking about commercialization andwhich organizations will be able to use the technology following a PhaseII effort. It is necessary to take that into account, rather than justfocusing on developing technology without putting a strong effort intodeveloping a commercial partner or setting the effort up for continuedfunding by teaming with an organization post-Phase II.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

State of the art: NASA has beenresearching advanced air transportation concepts and technologies toimprove commercial aviation operations in the NAS.

Critical gaps: Significant challenges remain in integrating airtransportation technologies across different domains and operators(e.g., airport surface and terminal area, airportauthority and air navigation service providers, etc.),human-autonomy teaming, providing comprehensive strategicscheduling and traffic management technologies, and enablingconcepts that will scale up to accommodate increased demand andcomplexity of operations. 

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

The Airspace Operations and SafetyProgram (AOSP) works with the FAA, industry, and academicpartners to conceive and develop Next Generation Air TransportationSystem (NextGen) technologies to further improve the safety of currentand future aircraft.

Successful technologies in this subtopic have helped to advancethe air traffic management/airspace operations objectives of the AOSPand have resulted in successful technology transfer to externalstakeholders (including the FAA and the air transportationindustry).

NASA Airspace Operations and Safety Programwebsite:

FAA's "Info-CentricNAS" Vision:

NASA's "Sky forAll" website:

NASA’s “SustainableFlight National Partnership”website: 


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