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The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) represents nothing short of the total transformation of the nation’s air transportation system. This is a complex and comprehensive initiative that will involve not only the development of new technology, but also the leveraging of existing technologies. This includes satellite navigation and control of aircraft, advanced digital communications, enhanced connectivity between all components of the national air transportation system, and a much larger role for advanced automation capabilities in the control of aircraft. The initiative involves meaningful collaboration among government departments and agencies, as well as companies in aerospace and other related industries.
The NextGen portfolio includes large-scale investments, research, and operational changes that will profoundly impact the capabilities of the nation’s air transportation system. This includes developments in air traffic control, airspace management, satellite-based navigation, security (both at the airport and in the air), digital communications, net-centric operations, and changes in the way aviation weather information is gathered and disseminated throughout the system.
The JPDO, working closely with its government partners, has identified several valuable opportunities to leverage technology, expertise, and ongoing research to foster collaboration on key NextGen issues. Some ongoing examples of this work include:
650 Million Passengers and Growing
The demand placed on America's air transportation system has grown significantly over the past 30 years. In 1980, the system carried 281 million passengers. In 2008, it handled nearly 650 million passengers, according to the Department of Transportation. One of the most important benefits of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will be the increase in airspace capacity. Many of the core technologies used in today’s system were first developed during World War II. If the system is to adjust to future demands, new aircraft types, and changing business models, then it has to be updated and transformed to make it more scalable and flexible.
Aviation is Vital to the Economy
Our nation’s economy relies on an air transportation system that moves both people and goods from domestically and throughout the world safely and efficiently. In fact, 5.6% of our economy is represented by the aviation industry, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In an October 2008 report entitled “The Economic Impact of Civil Aviation on the U.S. Economy”, the FAA estimates that by 2022, the failure to implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) would cost the US economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity. Even as early as 2015, an FAA simulation shows that without some of the initial elements of NextGen, there will be far greater air traffic delays than currently experienced, according to the “NextGen Q & A” fact sheet at www.faa.gov.
NextGen is Efficient and Green
A key objective of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is to develop environmental protection that allows sustained aviation growth. In this regard, the JPDO is promoting “green goals.” Specifically, the JPDO and its government and industry partners are focusing on four major environmental concerns: aviation noise, air quality, water quality, and fuel consumption.
By using existing air and ground space more resourcefully, NextGen will be able to increase the scalability and efficiency of the system. This will mean reduced delays, increased capacity (in terms of the number of flights), and a reduction in the environmental impact of aviation through improved operations and advanced engine and airframe design.
Through more efficient routing, optimized descent approaches, reduced time spent idling on the ground, and other operational improvements, NextGen will also provide substantial environmental benefits.
Securing America’s Air Transportation System
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) technologies will substantially improve our nation’s ability to manage, monitor, and secure the nation’s air transportation system. NextGen will give those charged with this essential mission the tools to work in real time while relying on the same operational picture. This will create an entirely new paradigm for the way America manages the security of its airspace. The benefits will be substantial.
For example, with NextGen, it will be possible to immediately view data on the current operation and intent of any aircraft in the system. In the event an aircraft deviates from its flight plan or begins to operate in a suspicious manner, this information will be instantly available. NextGen’s rapid exchange of information and an integrated approach to security will make it possible to identify aviation workers, travelers, and cargo that pose a potential threat and prevent them from gaining access to the air transportation system through pre-screening/credentialing, on-site screening.
The goal of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is to significantly increase the safety, security, capacity, efficiency and environmental compatibility of air transportation operations, and by doing so, improve the overall economic well-being of the country. These benefits will be achieved through a comprehensive set of nine NextGen capabilities that represent transformational improvements in how the national air transportation system is currently managed. NextGen drives the maturation process for each capability through various combinations of enabling solutions, such as new policies and incentives, new procedures, and advances in technology and automation. The nine capabilities are:
Collaborative Capacity Management
Provides the ability to dynamically balance anticipated/forecasted demand and use, and allocate air transportation system resources through proactive and collaborative strategic planning with enterprise stakeholders and automation (e.g., decision-support systems), using airspace and airport design requirements, standards, and configuration conditions with the consideration of other air transportation system resources.
Collaborative Flow Contingency Management
Provides optimal, synchronized, and safe strategic flow initiatives, and ensures the efficient management of major flows of traffic while minimizing the impact on other operations in collaboration with enterprise stakeholders, through real- or near-real-time resolutions informed by probabilistic decision making within established capacity management plans.
Efficient Trajectory Management
Provides the ability to assign trajectories that minimize the frequency and complexity of aircraft conflicts within the flow through the negotiation and adjustment of individual aircraft trajectories and/or sequences when required by resource constraints.
Flexible Separation Management
Establishes and maintains safe separation minimums from other aircraft, vehicles, protected airspace, terrain, weather, etc., by predicting conflicts and identifying resolutions (e.g., course, speed, altitude, etc.) in real time, and accommodates increasing capacity demands and traffic levels by using automation (e.g., decision-support systems) while also introducing reduced separation standards.
Integrated NextGen Information
Provides authorized aviation stakeholders timely, accurate, and actionable information (e.g., weather, surveillance, aeronautical information, operational and planning information, and position, navigation and timing information) to shorten decision cycles and improve situational awareness using a net-centric environment managed through enterprise services that meets the information exchange requirements of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) stakeholder community.
Air Transportation Security
Relies on the concept of layered, adaptive security based on risk assessment and risk management thus yielding the ability to identify, prioritize, and assess national defense and homeland security situations and appropriately adjust resources to facilitate the defeat of an evolving threat to critical air transportation system infrastructure and key resources using a collaborative approach (e.g., appropriate tactics, techniques, and procedures) without unduly limiting mobility, making unwarranted intrusions on civil liberties, and minimizing impacts to airline operations or aviation economics.
Improved Environmental Performance
Ensures environmental management considerations, including flexibility in identifying, preventing, and proactively addressing environmental impacts, are fully integrated throughout the air transportation system decision-making process, through increased collaboration and improved tools, technologies, operational policies, procedures, and practices that are consistent and compatible with national and international regulations.
Improved Safety Operations
Ensures safety considerations are fully integrated throughout the air transportation system through increased collaboration and information sharing, improved automation (e.g., decision-support systems), prognostic safety risk analysis, and enhanced safety promotion and assurance techniques that are consistent and compatible with national and international regulations, standards, and procedures.
Flexible Airport Facility and Ramp Operations
Provides the ability to reallocate or reconfigure the airport and surface assets to maintain acceptable levels of service that will accommodate increasing passenger and cargo demand levels, or changes in operational requirements, through infrastructure development, predictive analyses, and improvements to technology (e.g., automation and decision-support systems) and procedures.
The JPDO is focused on achieving harmonization of aviation systems and procedures to ensure civil and military interoperability across international boundaries. Timely adoption of global standards and international operating procedures are essential to global harmonization.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will help air transportation continue its role as an engine of economic growth. However, the success of NextGen will depend on the ability of the JPDO and its government partners to work with its international stakeholders. The goal? To ensure that aircraft and operators move safely and seamlessly throughout the global aviation environment.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will benefit the General Aviation (GA) community in the following ways:
Preservation of Small Airports
The JPDO recognizes the importance of the 5,000-plus airfields that support the GA community and the valuable capacity that they add to the National Airspace System (NAS).
Better Weather Information
Better weather information will help disseminate weather situational awareness and create a common weather picture for all pilots.
Equivalent Visual Operations in Marginal IMC
With NextGen, bad weather will have less of an adverse impact on flight. In most situations, pilots and controllers will collaborate in real-time to adjust routes and maneuver around storms.
Greater Access to Terminal Airspace
Flexible management of the airspace, coupled with improved weather forecast accuracy, new communications, and surveillance and navigational capabilities, allows access to more airspace, more of the time, with reduced impact on traffic flows. This will maximize access for all traffic, while rewarding those aircraft with advanced capabilities that support the air traffic management system. In addition, because of the reduced "footprint" required for these operations, classic Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations will have more access around major airports.
Security Targeted to Risk
The assessment of risks under NextGen provides a prioritized list of vulnerabilities and potential mitigation. For example, external attacks on aircraft may be an issue at some airports, requiring mitigation. Fortunately, this means that most GA airports will not be as vulnerable to these risks.
In 2003, the Congress directed establishment of the multi-agency JPDO to begin the the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) design process. The JPDO represents an unprecedented level of intergovernmental cooperation. The agencies and departments working on NextGen include the Departments of Commerce (DOC), Defense (DOD), Transportation (DOT), Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
The NextGen initiative is a challenging undertaking. Never before have so many different government agencies been involved in an initiative of such profound scope and duration. The JPDO’s role is to maintain the NextGen vision as set forth in the National Integrated Plan. The JPDO identifies and assesses critical capital investments, research, and policy decisions requiring agency action. Moreover, the JPDO performs a unique role in identifying technologies and capabilities that can be leveraged across multiple agencies, as well as in the private sector, for more efficient resource allocation.
These include achieving both expanded capacity and improved environmental performance, reducing the impact of weather as a major source of delays, creating system flexibility, and working with NextGen stakeholders in helping the aviation industry transition to a new way of doing business.
The JPDO’s government partners, as directed by its enabling legislation (The Vision 100 – Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, PL 108-176), include:
- Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Department of Commerce (DOC)
- Department of Defense (DOD)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) – (Ex Officio)
The JPDO receives its direction from its senior governance body, the Senior Policy Committee (SPC), which is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation. Vision 100, in addition to stressing the value of departmental and agency collaboration, also put considerable emphasis on the importance of direct industry involvement in NextGen’s planning and development. With that in mind, the JPDO created the NextGen Institute.
The Senior Policy Committee (SPC) of the JPDO directs the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Initiative. The committee is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation, and includes:
- Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- Secretary of the United States Air Force, representing the Department of Defense (DOD)
- Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce (DOC)
- Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) - ex officio
The functions of the SPC, as outlined in Vision 100, are to:
- Advise the Secretary of Transportation regarding the national goals and strategic objectives for the transformation of the Nation’s air transportation system to meet its future needs
- Provide policy guidance for the integrated plan for the air transportation system to be developed by the JPDO
- Provide ongoing policy review for the transformation of the air transportation system
- Identify resource needs and make recommendations to their respective agencies for necessary funding for planning and research and development activities
- Make legislative recommendations, as appropriate, for the future air transportation system
Additionally, the SPC carries out these functions with the private sector (including representatives from general aviation, commercial aviation, aviation labor, and the space industry), members of the public, and other interested parties.
JPDO Collaboration Networks
The JPDO’s Collaboration Networks offer a unique set of opportunities for members of the aviation community to participate in NextGen projects, activities, and initiatives. They provide an environment for government and industry to share information and collaboratively engage in discussions and activities. The work done as a part of these networks will be used to inform NextGen planning and implementation.
We have structured our Collaboration Networks into four different areas to accommodate a wide range of interests and stakeholders.
- Study Teams
- Discussion Groups
- Information-Sharing Sessions
- Community Review And Validation
You can access additional information on the Collaboration Networks here.
The NextGen Institute was established in March 2005 via a contract between the National Center for Advanced Technologies (NCAT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) "as the mechanism through which the JPDO will access world-class private-sector expertise, tools, and facilities for application to [NextGen] activities and tasks." Co-located with the JPDO, the Institute is a fully involved partner in the day-to-day activities and process through which the JPDO accomplishes the Vision 100 and NextGen goals.
The NextGen Institute was created with the purpose of:
- Enabling partnership between the government and private sector on goals and priorities and definition, development, and implementation of NextGen
- Establishing a mechanism for gathering and applying the best expertise in support of NextGen
- Encouraging the development of transformational ideas
- Sustaining a long-term undertaking by promoting jointly supporting solutions and coordinated investments
The goals for the NextGen Institute are to:
- Establish the mechanism for the JPDO to access world-class expertise, tools, and facilities for application to the NextGen activities and tasks
- Conduct JPDO-requested work in support of planning, research, analysis, assessment, architecture, setting functional requirements, prototyping, simulation, and demonstrating future system attributes
- Validate new concepts and approaches
- Establish a collaborative relationship between the government and private sector that will serve as a catalyst for fostering a shared vision of NextGen and combine the talents and resources of government, industry and academia
The Joint Planning Environment (JPE)
The JPE is a Web-accessible application that serves as a foundation for product and program management, development, and integration. This application allows the JPDO to communicate the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) planning information in a clear and concise way to partner agencies and stakeholders, with additional features not possible via paper-based publications.
Using the JPE, NextGen partner agencies and stakeholders may search across NextGen work products, view data by agency, data element type, or agency specific framework. Users also have the ability to view detailed reports, charts, and graphs. JPE Reports provide additional methods for analyzing the data contained in the system. Many Reports can be filtered, sorted, and exported for offline viewing. Example Report types include visual timetables for elements contained in the Integrated Work Plan (IWP), relationship mapping reports, and reports that aggregate data by agency, capability, and planning year.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Concept of Operations (ConOps), likened to an architect’s preliminary drawings, is a technical narrative document that describes how NextGen will work from an operational standpoint, and what it will look like in the future. Developed concurrently with the Enterprise Architecture, the ConOps is critical to developing NextGen’s specific requirements. The ConOps forms a technological baseline to help stimulate the development of policies that can further improve NextGen.
The Enterprise Architecture is a blueprint of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). As the consolidated “picture” of the future, it provides a general description of NextGen’s abilities, how they work together as a total package, and what it will look like upon completion. It comprehensively defines the future system, the timetable for implementation, and its impact on the aviation community.
The IWP is an evolutionary plan that describes how the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is being developed to meet the nation’s need for air transportation safety, security, mobility, efficiency, and capacity. It provides the integrated framework to achieve the NextGen vision. It describes the transition from the current to the end state defined in the Concept of Operations and Enterprise Architecture. In short, the IWP is the JPDO plan to achieve NextGen.
As a central link in the air transportation chain of operations, airports are a determining factor in the total capacity of the air transportation system. Accordingly, airports are critical to the overall transformation to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Airports serve as the integrative space between ground and air transportation systems. They enable aircraft to arrive and depart in a safe, efficient, and secure manner, while also facilitating the movement of people and cargo, on and off aircraft.
Achieving the capacity growth needed to meet future demand for aircraft operations and passenger and cargo movements at airports will be a significant challenge. NextGen seeks substantial improvements in the use of existing infrastructure as well as the development of new infrastructure at both scheduled air transport service and general aviation (GA) airports to benefit the passenger, cargo, and GA aircraft operators that use the nation’s airports.
Net-Centric Operations comprise an essential element of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen’s successful accomplishment involves the development and implementation of a range of new technologies. These include satellite-based navigation of aircraft, advanced weather forecasting and data dissemination capabilities, a dynamically interactive air traffic control system, and collaborative Command and Control systems for security defense operations. An inherent requirement to the development and application of these groundbreaking capabilities is the application of Net-Centric Operations, which offer the ability to share real-time information among numerous, disparate, geographically dispersed operators in the National Airspace System (NAS).
Net-Centric Operations will provide the framework for reliable communications and data connectivity. This includes the ground-to-air and air-to-air information sharing, along with connectivity to key satellite-based information sources. This infrastructure will provide access control— the framework for the transport of data— bandwidth allocation, and network monitoring and diagnostics.
Net-Centric Operations aim to integrate people, technologies, and services into a robust infrastructure—sometimes called a network of networks—that supplies operational and other important data to users of the NAS. As a result, everyone from pilots and air traffic controllers to ticket agents and customs officials will be able to more easily and efficiently access the information they need.
"Net-Centricity" enables information sharing by connecting people and systems that have information (data and services) with those who need information. Net-Centricity establishes an environment in which each of the data providers exposes data for consumers to discover and retrieve. This approach effectively separates the data from the underlying application or system. This loose coupling between systems and data is much more efficient than a point-to-point networking methodology.
Another fundamental attribute of Net-Centricity is the ability for any authorized consumer of information to get the information that is needed, when it is needed. Data or information can be obtained by all authorized users whether they were anticipated or unanticipated. And equally important, the data is protected against unauthorized access. Information moves from being a private asset to a community or enterprise asset.
For NextGen, Net-Centric Operations allow the NAS to adapt to growth in operations as well as shifts in demand, making NextGen a scalable system. Net-Centricity also provides the foundation for robust, efficient, secure, and timely transport of information to—and from—a broad community of users and individual subscribers. This results in a system that minimizes duplication, achieves integration, and facilitates the concepts of distributed decision making by ensuring that all decision elements have exactly the same information upon which to base a decision, independent of when or where the decision is made.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the principal source of air traffic and aviation research. Historically, one of the most challenging aspects of this work has been the coordination of NASA’s efforts with the operational needs of the FAA. This concern is only heightened by the expanded needs of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). With this in mind, and working with both agencies, the JPDO has established a series of Research Transition Teams to coordinate the development of key research requirements and to better coordinate the evolution of research into operational improvements and new capabilities.
The transformation to TBO will greatly enhance the capacity of our National Airspace System (NAS) by allowing planes to fly to their destinations faster and closer together, without sacrificing safety. Currently, air traffic controllers help an aircraft along its route based on several pieces of critical information (e.g., weather conditions, separation between aircraft, ground-based location).
With the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), TBO will allow aircraft to fly on precise, four-dimensional pathways (or trajectories). Aircraft will be able to fly directly to their destination, automatically separating from other aircraft and adjusting to weather conditions as required. TBO equipped aircraft will fly with more precision with respect to their flight path and relative to other aircraft. Once changes in position are made, avionics (onboard flight data equipment) send and receive real-time flight data throughout the system, giving controllers and other aircraft the information they need to know precisely where every aircraft is and, as a result, adjust automatically.
In the TBO environment, the traditional roles of pilots and controllers will evolve due to automation, support, and integration. Aircraft will digitally transmit and receive precise data, to include aircraft routes and the times aircraft will cross key points in the airspace. Individual aircraft trajectories and entire flows of aircraft can be dynamically adjusted to take advantage of opportunities and avoid constraints safely and efficiently.
The integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) is an integral part of the planning and implementation of NextGen. An unmanned aircraft is generally defined as an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. UAS operations are semi-autonomous with a systems architecture that includes the unmanned aircraft, control and communications elements, the human element (pilot/operator, controller, and supervisor and support, such as transport, launch, and recovery), and payload, including sensors, communications relay, and cargo.
UAS already play a unique role in the safety and security of many U.S. military and civil missions, such as border surveillance, monitoring oil pipelines, and local law enforcement. They have evolved from simple drones to sophisticated aerial vehicles capable of staying aloft for weeks at a time.
UAS offer several advantages over traditional piloted aircraft, including lower operating costs, longer endurance, and—with no pilot onboard—safety. However, UAS access to the NAS, especially for civilian operations, remains restricted due to a lack of consistent operational procedures, standards, and policies. Additionally, because the current NAS accommodates manned aircraft, UAS now operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) only in Special Use Airspace (SUA). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows UAS operations on a case-by-case basis. Communications and collision avoidance remain the two primary operational challenges.
Due to the diverse utility that UAS offer, their use will increase exponentially in a variety of key military and civilian areas coinciding with the ongoing implementation of NextGen. In the U.S. alone, there are about 50 companies, universities, and government organizations developing more than 150 different unmanned aircraft designs. Industry projections for 2018 by the Teal Group, an aviation consulting firm, forecast more than 15,000 UAS in service in the U.S., with a total of almost 30,000 deployed worldwide. UAS spending will total $80 billion over the next 10 years. From an operational, infrastructure and safety perspective, this presents a number of challenges, the solutions to which will involve and impact all NAS constituencies, but ultimately enable a seamless integration of UAS into the NAS.
In designing NextGen and planning for a substantial increase in the use of UAS, the FAA considers the most important technical challenge to be developing a sense of trust that UAS can operate in the same airspace as crewed aircraft without creating a hazard either to other aircraft or other objects on the ground. The challenge is to make sure that UAS have the ability to respond to Air Traffic Control (ATC)-issued instructions as quickly as manned aircraft, and that in the event of a total loss of communications there is some way for ATC to predict what course of action the UAS will engage in.
Full integration of UAS into NextGen where “file and fly”— the ability to fly in four-dimensional trajectory-based airspace and predict the aircraft’s flight path in terms of spatial position and times along points in its path—remains a long-term goal of the JPDO, which is working to make certain that the technologies, procedures, standards, and policies are in place to ensure safe and consistent UAS operations throughout the NAS.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that roughly 70 percent of airport delays are due to poor weather conditions. The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) will enhance users’ ability to respond to weather and mitigate weather’s impact on the National Airspace System (NAS).
NextGen will include new technologies, policies, procedures, and integrated systems to help manage the anticipated rise in traffic. Because of the profound impact adverse weather has on transportation, NextGen is focusing on a major new direction in aviation weather information capabilities to help stakeholders at all levels make better decisions during weather situations. Those capabilities will be developed based on three major tenets:
- A common weather picture for all air transportation decision makers and aviation system users
- Weather directly integrated into sophisticated decision support capabilities to assist decision makers
- Use of internet-like information dissemination capabilities to realize flexible and cost-efficient access to all necessary weather information