Automation Evolution Strategy

Contents: ⇣ What is AES? | ⇣ Why Modernize? | ⇣ How Will AES Help The FAA Evolve?⇣ Documents | ⇣ Scope⇣ What's Next? | ⇣ Contacts | ⇣ Videos

What is AES?

The Automation Evolution Strategy (AES) is the strategy the FAA is using to modernize its automation by adopting a services-based architecture, with emphasis on more timely development and delivery of new capabilities. A service-based architecture is an architecture framework in which different parts of a system-of-systems interoperate by exposing and accessing data and processing functions as services that can be accessed over a network.

In simple terms,

"AES is a vision for the future evolution of how FAA's automation systems are built."

AES Vision
Create a National Airspace System (NAS) composed of automation capabilities that utilizes layered enterprise components and reusable services which can be developed, acquired, and sustained independently

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Why Modernize NAS Automation Development And Deployment Architecture?

In many of today’s FAA automation systems, each system independently maintains similar technological infrastructure elements (e.g., hardware, operating systems, data management tools). These systems generally do not take advantage of shared, enterprise-based infrastructure elements and methodologies that could optimize operating costs, scale to meet dynamic user demands, and enable the use of common data flows to ultimately improve Air Traffic Management (ATM) service delivery.

The AES aims to migrate these systems to a modern, layered architecture to accrue a number of benefits for the FAA and enable the transition to an Info-Centric NAS.

Current State

  • Many of FAA's automation systems independently maintain similar technological infrastructure elements such as hardware, COTS, and data management tools.
  • These siloed systems do not allow programs to take advantage of shared, enterprise-based infrastructure elements and methodologies.

Transition State

  • Migrate systems to a layered, service-based architecture thru a combination of cloud, Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps), and enterprise/micro services.

Future State

  • An Info-Centric NAS and improved Air Traffic Management (ATM) service delivery that:
    • scales to meet dynamic user demands
    • enables the use of common data flows; and
    • optimizes operating costs.
  • New business opportunities as well as expansion of industry base.

The AES was created with specific strategic objectives in mind. These are listed below.

AES Strategic Objectives:

Obtain efficiencies in the development, operation, and sustainment of NAS automation systems/services.

Reduce time to develop, integrate, and deploy new capabilities.

Leverage commercial best practices.

Promote competition to ensure optimal return on investment.

Establish a scalable, flexible, secure, and resilient architecture to support ATM service delivery.

This website, and the Request for Information (RFI) recently released, seeks to move forward on leveraging commercial industry best practices by engaging with industry to learn from their experience in agile, while at the same time mitigating potential risks.

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How Will AES Help The FAA Evolve?

AES envisions a layered, service-based architecture [⇣ 1] that encompasses air traffic management services.

This architecture leverages advances in service-orientation using modern design patterns (e.g., microservices [⇣ 2]), enterprise processes, information technology services, like cloud technologies, and using industry best practices in software Development, Security, Testing (e.g., Test Driven Development [⇣ 3]), and Deployment to Operations (DevSecOps).

In the image below, we have identified the three AES layers.

Mission software layer: mission applications, common mission services (trajectory service, flight information service). standards-based software platform layer: frameworks and environments (SWIM), enterprise infrastructure services (cybersecurity, security event info management, identity access management, data encryption, incident response, backup & restore), enterprise tools (ML/AI, IaC, GitHub, apace ant, testNG, docker, openshift, chef, oracle, sql server, apache JMeter, syslog, kubernetes, frog artilfactory). Computing resources layer: End user equipment (workstations, monitors), computing infrastructure components (amazon web services, servers, microsoft azure, routers, vmWare, switches, disk storage).

View full-size image

Note: Enterprise services and tools depicted in the diagram are examples of capabilities that can be available within the AES architecture.

Starting from the bottom-up:

The Computing Resources Layer

  • Leverages FAA's work in cloud services (for example, National Cloud Integration Services (NCIS), FAA Cloud Services (FCS)) to provide underlying computing infrastructure (on the right-hand side) and end-user devices (for example, workstations).
  • The benefit of this is that this is a change paradigm for infrastructure acquisition and deployment to provide improved scalability, flexibility and resiliency for the architecture.

Standards-Based Software Platform Layer

  • The objective of this layer is to provide a shared platform capability to support development, testing and deployment of applications and services.
  • FAA has already developed initial information sharing platform capabilities such as SWIM.
  • The benefit of this is that it helps streamline and accelerate development and deployment of capabilities by providing a shared set of Enterprise Services and Tools.

Mission Software Layer

  • With the infrastructure capabilities provided by the computing and platform layers that we just described, the programs will not need to worry about acquiring and supporting the underlying infrastructure.  They can now focus on providing services and applications to the users utilizing shared enterprise platform capabilities.

To accomplish this vision, the FAA has organized the AES work in five focus areas.

Systems Engineering & Architecture Planning

Refine Service-Based Architecture
Outcome: Establish Service-Based Architecture and automation evolution strategy with associated work plan

Architecture Transition Planning
Outcome: Define transition strategies that balances the need to reduce costs while transitioning effectively to strategy vision

“Learn by Doing”

Architecture Validation and Risk Reduction Efforts
Outcome: Conduct risk mitigation efforts that will support architecture validation and enable FAA to apply Agile/DevSecOps processes and tools, help establish roles and responsibilities across government and industry and capture lessons learned

Leverage Innovation

Stakeholder Engagement
Outcome: Engage internally and externally to solicit input on Automation Evolution Strategy, potential transition opportunities and acquisition enhancements to best implement strategy

People & Processes

Acquisition, Budget, and Contracting
Outcome: Conduct acquisition of Service-Based Architecture that includes budgetary needs, contractual approach, and senior leadership approval; Define acquisition strategies, budget requests, as well as contracting artifacts and processes that are necessary to enable implementation

In summary, AES delivers a new paradigm creating a more agile NAS that responds to new entrants, improves air traffic management, and maintains our commitment to safety, by empowering FAA programs to focus on developing high priority user features and capabilities, faster.

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AES Documents

AES released several documents to industry via the AES RFI. The links to the RFI and the related documents are referenced below. 

  • AES released an RFI on August 4, 2023. Industry is being asked to provide input on the themes outlined in the RFI, which are also detailed below in the AES Scope section; inputs will be collected via a response to the RFI, and if desired, one-on-one meetings. To schedule a one-on-one meeting, please email
  • The Service-Based Reference Architecture for NAS Automation describes the technical characteristics of the future architecture to achieve the goals of AES.
  • The Concept of Use for Service-Based Reference Architecture describes how the architecture will be created, sustained, and used.

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AES Scope

Based on the envisioned roles associated with the Service-Based Architecture (see Concept of Use for Service-Based Reference Architecture), a set of themes are summarized below to organize responses on industry solutions and applied experience for any given area. These themes establish a framework for providing inputs, are not intended to be exhaustive, and may be refined based on industry feedback. In addition, industry inputs do not need to cover the whole framework, and may focus on a single theme or span multiple areas.

What's Next?

This website and the AES RFI are part of our AES Stakeholder Engagement Focus Area approach. The FAA wants to leverage industry innovations, and collaborate to help shape this strategy vision, address key challenges, as well as mitigate potential risks. In parallel, we are defining the potential industry engagement activities to do all this. To accomplish this, we have divided our Industry Engagement approach in three phases.

  1. Awareness Phase
    • Level-set industry understanding of AES concepts and principles by establishing awareness around key messages such as:
      • The FAA’s vision of a layered architecture approach introduces new business opportunities as well as expansion of industry base
      • FAA is seeking to leverage technologies and solutions that are outside of the aviation domain (i.e. target traditional and non-traditional vendors)
  2. Understanding and Collaboration Phase
    • Collaborate with industry to obtain industry feedback with respect to AES objectives as well as specific topics (e.g., incremental acquisitions, DevSecOps toolchains and processes)
  3. Refinement Phase 
    • Refine potential procurement and market research activities (e.g., industry day, market survey) to reflect improved understanding of FAA and industry needs

We are really excited about this vision! The FAA is targeting more industry engagement activities in 2023 so stay tuned as we keep updating this website. We look forward to engaging further in this vision.

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AES Contacts

For general AES information, requests/questions, and one-on-one meeting requests, please email

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AES Videos

To gain more understanding of AES, the FAA has created a 3-part series of videos.

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1 Service-based Architecture is an architecture framework in which different parts of a system-of-systems interoperate by exposing and accessing data and processing functions as services that can be accessed over a network. | ⇡ Back

2 Microservices are small self-contained, loosely coupled services. In today's world it is all interconnected. The idea behind microservices is that you establish services and capabilities that are loosely coupled so if you need to upgrade the system, you don't have to bring down the whole system. You modify that service, and not have to worry about breaking all other parts. | ⇡ Back

3 Test Driven Development is a software development process relying on software requirements being converted to test cases before software is fully developed. It tracks all software development by repeatedly testing the software against all test cases. In other words, it is the process of modifying the code in order to pass a test previously designed. | ⇡ Back

Last updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2023