NASA Taps IAI to Develop a Safe Architecture for a Million-Flight National Airspace System

NASA is interested in futuristic airspace architectures for the year 2035 and beyond. These architectures must incorporate increased automation both in vehicles and in National Airspace System (NAS) operations, and must safely accommodate future airspace targets including increased density, mobility on demand, and increased diversity of aircraft. IAI and collaborators at The George Mason University will develop an architectural method for describing a future NAS that handles an unlimited number of flights. The team will use standard techniques to develop and elucidate requirements, determine Pareto-optimal tradeoff curves, perform sensitivity analyses, and compute safety and performance margins. The project will initially populate the method with a sectorless airspace design, where a safety margin of one incident for every one billion flights or less will be maintained through management of airspace density. Density computations will be used in conjunction with sense-and-avoid (SAA) capabilities to determine whether a block of airspace is safe. The architecture can be applied to all altitudes and aircraft types, including small and large UAS, traditional commercial aircraft, general aviation, lighter-than-airships, space launches and re-entries, orbiting vehicles, and personal aircraft. The model will be demonstrated using IAI’s simulation infrastructure, which is scheduled for integration with the SMART-NAS system, and uses performance and environmental models coupled with big data analysis techniques. Other SMART-NAS components can contribute traffic loads, disruption scenarios, and physics-based performance analyses. IAI’s innovative architecture exploits vehicle autonomy and the “internet of everything” to provide a safe, high-density NAS, and can also help to identify research needed to fulfil this vision. Furthermore, the sectorless architecture system will be less expensive to build and operate than the current NAS, even though traffic levels will be 10 to 100 times what the NAS can currently handle.