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In conjunction with NASA Langley Research Center, NASA's Airspace Operations Lab is exploring issues and ideas for allocating separation assurance functions to meet the future air transportation needs. A separation assurance system primarily performs the functions necessary to ensure that aircraft remain safely separated from other traffic. Such a system is also simultaneously concerned with the avoidance of severe weather, the conformance of flights to a variety of operational constraints, and the overall expeditious flow of traffic from origin to destination. In the current system, air traffic services provide these functions. However even with the current level of operations, this can result in excessive controller workload, limited capacity and, often, inefficient operations. With an expected increase in traffic, these weaknesses can be exacerbated. New automation in the air, on the ground and/or the cloud, and powerful new communication technologies can enable different ways to allocate trajectory management and separation assurance functions.

NASA’s function allocation research is concerned with identifying the strengths and weakness of different allocations of separation assurance functions amongst the wide variety of agents participating in the air traffic operation. This research is expected to help provide a roadmap to ensure that fundamental research is pointed towards an efficient final state. The future system should help handle growing travel in a safe, efficient, and sustainable manner.

Points of Contact: Thomas Prevot, Ph.D., Human Systems Integration Division, NASA Ames Research Center
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Everett Palmer
Last Updated: July 11, 2014