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Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program

Hyper-Spectral Communications, Networking & ATM as Foundation for Safe and Efficient Future Flight: Transcending Aviation Operational Limitations with Diverse and Secure Multi-Band, Multi-Mode, mmWave (HSCNA)

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Illustration of radio links being designed for multiple phases of flight

The Hyper Spectral Communications and Networking for Air Traffic Management (HSCNA) project goals are to contribute to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Strategic Thrust 1—Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations—by investigating techniques and developing technologies that will significantly improve aviation link communication and networking performance, for air-ground and airport applications. This will be done by design and evaluation of novel communication techniques at the physical, data link, and networking layers of the communications protocol stack. Our team is applying these techniques and evaluating them in computer simulations as well as in experimental testbed prototypes. In this project we are building analytical, simulation, and measurement tools, and these will be used to assess gains to air traffic management system capacity, efficiency, and resilience. One significant outcome is a prototype dual-frequency-band air-ground radio system that will be flight tested by Boeing in 2020. This radio design is more efficient, and more robust to interference than existing systems.

The project consists of six (6) major tasks:

Task 1: Develop a multi-band networking Concept of Operations for use in multiple phases of flight and all communication link types.

Task 2: Quantify capacity and coverage of existing aviation (and adjacent) frequency bands and technologies, quantify shortcomings and mid- to far-term (~2035) improvements, and assess growth potential.

Task 3: Build analysis and simulation software toolboxes and prototypes and assess adaptive link and network performance over multiple frequency bands using multiple communication modes in a hyper-spectral network.

Task 4: Quantify capacity and efficiency gains of millimeter wave wireless airport subnetworks. Measure and model example channels and validate prototype fifth generation wireless technology (5G)-and-beyond millimeter wave systems in example airport network operations.

Task 5: Develop novel unauthorized unmanned aircraft system (UAS) detection/localization techniques to detect and track unauthorized UAS.

Task 6: Develop realistic and comprehensive air traffic management (ATM) simulation tools to assess gains of multi-band/multi-mode and millimeter wave networking in terms of data link performance per aircraft, supportable traffic density, multi-vehicle collaboration, and operational benefits.

In addition to personnel effort and training (undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral research associates), resources are being invested in software defined radios and radio frequency hardware such as high power amplifiers and multiple antennas, millimeter wave signal generation and analysis equipment, small UAS (drones), radars, and advanced air traffic management computer simulation software.

Several long-term goals of the project include development and deployment of advanced UAS detection schemes to protect airports and other sensitive areas, development and eventual standardization of more efficient and more reliable radio technologies for multiple air-ground and airport networks, development of new millimeter wave antennas and radio subsystems, and development of new computer simulation tools for assessment and continual improvement of air traffic management and operations.

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