The NextGen Integration and Evaluation Capability (NIEC) display area at the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center opened June 7, 2010.
The NIEC is a research platform where scientists will use simulation to explore, integrate and evaluate NextGen concepts, including area navigation (RNAV), trajectory-based operations, flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the national airspace system (NAS), and more. The NIEC display area compliments the existing unique facilities and aviation-based equipment at the Technical Center.
NextGen (Next Generation Air Transportation System) is the transformation of the air traffic control system of today to the satellite-based system of the future.
NextGen’s innovative new technologies will improve safety, capacity and efficiency on runways and in the nation’s skies and provide environmentally-friendly air traffic control procedures that reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and noise.
The NIEC’s mission is to foster the exploration, evaluation and integration of NextGen-enabling components. The idea is to rapidly develop prototypes and validate the concepts that will lead to full implementation of NextGen.
The NIEC uses existing NAS operating systems and high-fidelity, real-time simulation to create an integrated and flexible environment that can be tailored for NextGen research and test and evaluation.
The display area provides a futuristic NextGen gate-to-gate picture with advanced data collection to support integration and evaluation of new technologies and concepts. Its ability to combine existing systems with future technologies and capabilities means the NIEC will contribute significantly to the transition to NextGen.
The NIEC complex features an air traffic control simulation area, a cockpit simulator, an unmanned aircraft system suite, a simulated tower cab interior and a multi-purpose display area.
The multi-purpose area can be used to show weather and traffic management data, operate as a simulation monitoring station or simulate an airline operations center. Each NIEC component mirrors a key area in the NextGen “gate-to-gate” spectrum.
Characteristics and Capabilities of the NIEC include:
- A NIEC display area to support human-in-the-loop simulations
- A real-time, rapid prototyping and simulation capability to simulate the NAS while integrating NextGen concepts
- Technical Center and external laboratory integration
- Voice communications
- Audio, video and data recording
- The flexibility to support multiple, concurrent studies
- Available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week
- A certified ISO 9001:2008 laboratory (ISO [International Organization for Standardization] certification is a world-class, quality management standard achievement)
The NIEC display area integrates key air traffic components into a single environment at the Technical Center to address emerging research questions. Initial NIEC operations will use existing Technical Center capabilities. Partnerships with federal agencies, industry and academia will lead to new NextGen capabilities. The NIEC platform will evolve as research requirements emerge.
The Technical Center’s Target Generator Facility and the Distributed Environment for Simulation, Rapid Engineering and Experimentation (DESIREE) are existing simulation engines that will be important for NIEC simulations. The Target Generator can simulate air and ground traffic to drive work by various laboratories on advanced air traffic control concepts. DESIREE emulates the graphical user interface used in most air traffic control systems. These simulators cooperate to create a realistic user environment that can to emulate past, present or future air traffic environments.