The Federal Aviation Administration must enable new entrants' operations, including that of unmanned aerial systems, into the Next Generation Air Transportation System, according to an evaluation from MITRE/The Center for Advanced Aviation Development.
According to the FAA, which requested the review, MITRE's assessment showed that modernization of the national airspace system is well underway and the FAA is on target, meeting the goals it set to complete the foundational elements of NextGen, and is beginning to deliver enhanced operational capabilities and services to the airlines and traveling public.
However, MITRE cites the need to evolve the services that the FAA provides. On one hand, this involves accommodating new users, such as commercial space operations and UAS.
On the other hand, the FAA says, MITRE calls for the agency to divest itself of services that are no longer needed. The FAA agrees, and the administrator has built one of his four strategic initiatives around these themes. In line with MITRE’s suggestions, the “NAS Initiative” is driving toward clearer plans for the accommodation of new entrants, as well as sunset dates for certain types of legacy infrastructure, the FAA says.
This release from the FAA follows a recent report that the agency did not fully consider UAS when it was putting plans into motion for NextGen, which Congress mandated that the agency create after a 2003 legislation.
The FAA says its plans are currently in line with approximately 22 of MITRE’s recommendations. These include priorities that were developed with the NextGen Advisory Committee, such as initiating additional airspace redesign activities in metroplex areas, as well enabling of new entrants’ operations (e.g., UAS and commercial space operations). MITRE’s recommendations largely re-affirm the FAA’s intended direction in these areas, but they offer important considerations in the ongoing refinement of capabilities, the agency says.
The report arrives at a time when, the FAA says, it is responding to immediate needs and simultaneously planning its strategic future. As the agency manages the present and builds toward the future, it explains, MITRE’s observations present potential actions, some of which are already in motion, and many of which will be reaffirmed, informed or refined by this assessment.
While change in the aviation arena is the norm, the agency says, key planning parameters have changed significantly since NextGen commenced. Most notably, the FAA explains, it created the midterm NextGen plans when federal budgets were less constrained than they are today.
As MITRE suggests, though, and the FAA agrees, NextGen success in the long term hinges not only on funding. The assessment and recommendations point to areas where improved training, national policies or clearer governance could improve the realization of NextGen benefits.
MITRE provides examples of areas where technology has been or is in the process of deployment, but some of the complementary activities have not been achieved. The FAA says it commits to take a fresh look at those areas and consider appropriate actions.
The full FAA release on MITRE's evaluation can be found here.