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Advanced Air Traffic Management for Nontraditional Airspace Missionsand Aerial Wildfire Response

Description:

ScopeTitle:

Nontraditional Aviation Operations forAdvanced Air Mobility (AAM)

ScopeDescription:

This scope is focused on AAM airspace operationsonly and is not accepting proposals specific to othernontraditional aviation missions. In addition, proposals thatfocus only on cyber-resiliency solutions without proposing specific AAMservices will be rejected.

This subtopic seeks proposals with application toAAM including:

  • Service-based architecture designs that enable greaterscalability of AAM operations.
  • Tools and methods to bridge the gap betweencurrent-day operations and future AAM operations by facilitating teamingand collaboration between human operators and the autonomousagents/technologies needed for AAM operations to scale (i.e.,human-autonomy teaming). Objectives include:
    • Improve the effectiveness or efficiencywith which human operators work with increasingly autonomous airspacesystems.
    • Leverage the benefits of human operatorexpertise and participation in the airspacesystem.
    • Address challenges associated withintegrating new technologies in the airspace environment that involvehuman participation/decision making.
  • Dynamic route planning that considers changing environmentalconditions, vehicle performance and endurance, and airspace congestionand traffic avoidance.
  • Dynamic scheduling for on-demand access to constrained resourcesand interaction between vehicles with starkly different performance andcontrol characteristics.
  • Integration of emergent AAM operations with legacy operations inlow-altitude airspace and around major airports.
  • Operational concepts for fleet and network management, marketneed, and growth potential for future operations, and airspaceintegration.
  • Identification of potential certification approaches for newvehicle operations (such as electric vertical takeoff andlanding).

Future service-based architectures also require resiliency tocyberattacks to ensure safe and robust operations that maintain expectedlevels of safety and security. Therefore, proposals shouldincorporate cyber-resiliency methods, tools, or capabilities,or address cyber-resiliency as part of the proposedeffort. However, proposals focused exclusively on cybersecuritywill be rejected.

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’sintent is 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 I award recipients must be thinkingabout commercialization and which organizations will be able to use thetechnology following a Phase II effort. It is necessary to takethat into account, rather than just focusing on developing technologywithout putting a strong effort into developing a commercial partner orsetting the effort up for continued funding by teaming with anorganization post-Phase II.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

Current state of the art: NASA has beenresearching advanced air transportation concepts and technologies toimprove the viability and scalability of AAM operations in the NationalAirspace System (NAS).

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

  • Integrating air transportation technologies across differentdomains and operators.
  • Facilitating productive human-autonomy teaming.
  • Providing comprehensive, strategic scheduling and trafficmanagement technologies.
  • Enabling concepts that will allow for scaling demand andcomplexity of operations. 

This subtopic is focused on airspace operations for theAAM concept only. Proposals must have clearapplication to AAM airspace operations. Proposals that focus onAAM vehicle capabilities or onboard vehicle technologies or systems willbe rejected. Proposals that are specific to othernontraditional aviation missions (e.g., space traffic management,automated air cargo, traffic management for small UAS (e.g., UTM), andultra-high altitude operations) without clear application to AAM will berejected.

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

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

References:

  • https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aosp
  • https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/armd/armd-strategic-implementation-plan/

ScopeTitle:

Nontraditional Aviation Operations forWildfire Response

ScopeDescription:

In theUnited States, wildfires are becoming increasingly severe and costly interms of acreage burned, property damaged, and most importantly,lives lost. Wildfire frequency and intensityis escalating, inducing budgetary, personnel, andequipment challenges. Furthermore,California andother western states have been facing persistent drought conditions andmuch hotter temperatures, which are fueling wildfireintensity and duration. These alarming trendshave madeit urgent to better predict, mitigate, and manage wildlandfires.

NASA's history of contributions to wildfire and otherdisaster management efforts includes remote sensing, instrumentation,mapping, data fusion, and prediction. Morerecently, NASA ARMD has been investigatingcapabilities to help manage wildfire suppression and mitigationefforts through technologies for coordination of airspace operations forwildfire management.

NASA ARMD has recently made a significant contribution toenable widespread use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) bydeveloping air traffic management capabilities for low-altitude unmannedvehicle operations, called UAS Traffic Management (UTM). Thiswork is being adapted to safely and efficiently integratelarger vehicles and operations with existing operations andmission types. NASA recognizes the value these capabilitiescould provide when applied to the aerial wildfire managementdomain.

Current applications of aviation to wildfire management includedeployment of smoke jumpers to a fire; transport of firefighters,equipment, and supplies; fire retardant or water drop; reconnaissance offire locations and fire behavior; and supervision of airtactical operations.

Current challenges of aerial wildfiremanagementinclude:

  • Existing airspace management techniques aremanual and cannot accommodate new aircraft types suitable for wildfireresponse operations (e.g., unmannedaircraft).
  • Aerial firefighting is limited to acceptablevisual conditions (no nightoperations).
  • Monitoring and remote-sensing missions areintermittent, flown outside of active firefighting or availableperiodically from satelliteassets.
  • Thereis a lack of reliable, resilient, and secure data communications forquick information dissemination to support effective decisionmaking.

NASAis seeking technologiesto:

  • Providestrategic planning capabilities to collect, process, and disseminateinformation that enables persistent monitoring of wildland fireconditions (e.g., satellites, conventional aircraft, andUAS).
  • Providestrategic planning and tracking capabilities to enable the mosteffective use of ground crews, ground equipment, and aircraft duringoperations (e.g., both at a single incident and across multipleincidents).
  • Providestrategic planning capabilities that support multi-mission planning tosupport efficient mission assignments to support concurrent operations(e.g., air attack and search and rescue).
  • Provide an extension to theUTM network that considers the unique needs and characteristicsof wildfire disaster situations (e.g., non-connected environments) andthe response to combatthem.
  • Increase the throughput of availablecommunications, reduce the latency of data transfer,provideinteroperability with existing communication solutions, andprovide a reliable network for the use of UAS, other aviation assets,and emergency responders on theground. 
  • Provide amobile position, navigation, and timing solution to support automatedoperations (e.g., automated precision water drops) in Global PositioningSystem (GPS) degraded environments (e.g., mountainouscanyons).
  • Provide wildland fire prediction, airspacecoordination, and resource tracking for a common operating picture forsituationalawarenessthat supports various stakeholders in the incident command structure(e.g., incident commander, air tactical group supervisor, aircraftdispatch, UAS pilot, etc.).
  • Ensure highest safety and efficiency ofoperations.

Proposers wanting to focus onapplications of autonomy or enablers for autonomy to operatea vehicle in a wildfire- or disaster-responsemission should submit their proposal to Subtopic A2.02:Enabling Aircraft Autonomy, under the scope "Autonomy fordisasterresponse." 

 

Bycontrast, proposers wanting to focus on services ortechnologies to coordinate airborne operations across a wildfirearea should submit their proposal to the current subtopicscope.

 

Proposals focused on the following will berejected for thissubtopic:

  • Technologies that help autonomous or pilotedflight in areas with degraded visibility
  • Technologies that enable single-pilotmulti-shipoperations
  • Technologies that support unmanned logisticoperations such as moving supplies to a differentarea
  • Technologies that support wildfire suppressionand managementmissions

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of theProject: 1 to 5

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 I award recipients must be thinkingabout commercialization and which organizations will be able to use thetechnology following a Phase II effort. It is necessary to take thatinto account, rather than just focusing on developing technology withoutputting a strong effort into developing a commercial partner or settingthe effort up for continued funding by teaming with an organizationpost-Phase II.

State of the Art and CriticalGaps:

The current state of the art forcoordination of aerial firefighting is a manual process that must becoordinated across multiple entities, often bringing multiple aerialassets to the wildfire fighting environment. Advanced tools andtechniques are required to address the following gaps:

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

Relevance / ScienceTraceability:

Due toclimate change, wildfires are becoming increasingly more frequent andsevere. Fire seasons are longer, lasting 6 to 8 months; in somecases, fire season is year-round. The 2020 fire season was the worst inrecorded history, burning over 4 million acres ofland, destroying more than 8,500 structures,and killing more than 30 people. The economic impactof these fires is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and results inlasting societal impact. The annual cost of fire suppressionhas soared from roughly $425 million per year in 1999 to $1.6 billion in2019.

On June 30, 2021, PresidentBiden and Vice President Harris met with governors from western states,Cabinet officials, and private-sector partners to discuss specificactions the public and private sectors are each taking to strengthenprevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts to protectcommunities across our country from wildfires and their devastatingimpacts. The President directed a number of actions, in closecoordination with state and local governments and the private sector, toensure the Federal Government can most effectively protect public safetyand deliver assistance to our people in times of urgent need.

References:

  • https://www.nasa.gov/aeroresearch/programs/aosp
  • https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/armd/armd-strategic-implementation-plan/

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