During a Wednesday afternoon panel, some of the most
experienced and innovative aeronautical minds weighed in on how government,
space, military, and industry initiatives will impact the future of American
aviation over the next decade.
Steve Bradford of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),
discussed innovation from the government standpoint. He said one of the FAA’s
top priorities is providing information to help with decision-making for
unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). “Our goal is to try to figure out how to
exchange information in almost real-time,” he said. That includes breaking down
“the paradigm of paper and voice” in favor of digital data.
ATCA President and CEO Brian Bruckbauer, who is a recently
retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force, discussed the future of
military aviation. Fifth-generation fighters and some weapons require a lot of airspace to test, and
many military facilities don’t have that space, he said. Consequently, the
Department of Defense (DoD) is working closely with the FAA and NASA on
airspace issues, he said.
The DoD is also prioritising collaboration with private
industry. Many small businesses have had problems navigating government red
tape, but new DoD initiatives have yielded Incredible ideas from small
companies, Bruckbauer said.
Maverick Innovation Award Winner Dr. Chip Meserole, Boeing
Research and Technology, focused on the future of aviation from an industry
standpoint. “Safety and efficiency have always driven aviation goals. But on
top of that, we now have sustainability,” he said.
Meserole explained that Boeing has four pillars for sustainability
innovation, which are:
• Replacing fleets with newer aircraft that are 15
to 20 percent less emitting;
• Improving network operational efficiency to
reduce CO2 emissions;
• Focusing on alternative energy production,
including green carbon and green hydrogen; and,
• Prioritising technology innovation, including
electric aircraft for short ranges, and potentially, hydrogen-fueled aircraft for
medium or long ranges.
Sustainability initiatives also help attract new employees,
especially software engineers, Meserole said. “We have to compete with the tech
companies, and part of that is having the excitement of innovation that young
people are most interested in,” he said. “They also come in with values, like
sustainability. Most of them want to do something that’s important for
Panel moderator Abigail Glenn-Chase, ATCA and World ATM Congress, pointed
out that collaboration has been key for American aviation initiatives, and
asked panelists how they will achieve that in the future.
Dr. Parimal Kopardekar, NASA, said NASA has been working on aviation
aeronautics since it was founded in the 1950s. In more recent years, the FAA developed
a structure that allowed NASA to bring the FAA into its research and make it
more meaningful. This helps NASA determine the most applicable research,
Kopardekar said. “Our research has evolved positively over time, and we’re much
more integrated from research to reality.”
Bradford joked that the FAA used to look at NASA research as
“pretty baby but an ugly kid.”
“Now, collaboration has been so successful that
it’s gone beyond ATM and AAM, and we now have an R&D structure. We’ve learned
how to make a commitment to each other to make research work more effectively,” he said.
Boeing had a cost-share contract with the FAA that started
off many of the presets of NextGen, Meserole said. Boeing also has a research
and technology agreement with NASA to work together on both air traffic system
initiatives and air vehicles.
Bradford said FAA collaborations with industry are also
focusing on UAS.
“We have always welcomed new entrants into the airspace, but
we don’t have an infrastructure to support services before 400 feet. Industry
is going to have to help, and we have to provide guidance and policy to make it
equitable,” he said.