NextGen can adapt to changes. We anticipate continued rapid growth in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones, and space launch and re-entry operations. Remote towers are being tested, and research is ongoing to reduce aviation's environmental footprint and increase cybersecurity. The FAA continues to work with industry and academia to ensure new operations and products will be safely incorporated into the National Airspace System (NAS).
Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Operations of aerial vehicles flying without a human pilot on board continue to quickly expand in number and complexity. The FAA vision for full integration of UAS into the NAS involves drones operating harmoniously alongside manned aircraft and applying many of the same air traffic management procedures in place for conventional aircraft. We are exploring expansion of manned and unmanned traffic flying cargo and passengers hundreds of feet above populated areas and developing a concept of operations for operations above 60,000 feet.
The FAA's approach to integrating space operations into the NAS is evolutionary and will mature and refine over time. We have already significantly progressed by improving operational procedures and processes, such as time-based launch procedures and dynamic launch/re-entry windows to help gain efficiencies across the NAS.
With remote towers, air traffic services are provided by controllers at a facility that may not be on or near the airport. They use a visual depiction of that airport and surrounding airspace captured by video cameras. These facilities could be used as a cost-effective alternative to a traditional federal contract tower.
One goal of NextGen is to reduce the environmental effect of aviation while sustaining growth. The FAA and aviation community are developing alternative jet fuels to reduce emissions, and for piston-engine aircraft, an unleaded gasoline substitute. They are also involved in making certifiable aircraft and engines that are quieter and consume less fuel, which lowers emissions.
The increasingly interconnected NAS presents new challenges to securing information. The FAA is exploring how to use the latest resources available to combat computer security threats by examining emerging capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, self-adapting architecture, and big data analytics.
Read more about accommodating all operations in the NextGen Report.