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Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program

Secure and Safe Assured Autonomy (S2A2)

Active Technology Project

Project Description

The four TCs for Secure and Safe Assured Autonomy

Aviation’s future will likely see the integration of a wide variety of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) systems including Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for cargo/delivery, personal air vehicles, and commercial Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles.  However, substantial challenges exist that could delay (and possibly prevent) these developments and thus research is needed in a variety of areas to leverage technologies in autonomy, Air Traffic Management (ATM), multi-redundant flight systems architectures, and advanced wireless connectivity like 5G to meet these challenges.

The goal of this ULI project is to develop new technologies and innovative operational concepts which will ensure safe, secure and robust integration of autonomous vehicles into Advanced Air Mobility-tailored transportation infrastructure.  All this must be done while maintaining inter-operability with current civil air transportation systems and associated safety standards.


The project is organized into four Technical Challenges (TCs) areas designed to provide unique UAM solutions and a transition roadmap for industry and government to utilize research product output.


1            Safe Perception, Coordination, Planning, and Navigation is the basis of our first technical challenge TC1: The full-scale incorporation of low-altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and UAM systems introduces unexplored safety risks, and necessitates high-reliability sensing, coordination, planning, and navigation approaches to cope with dynamic and unpredictable environments.  TC1 addresses the amalgamation of various algorithms (and software components) that correspond to addressing disparate technological challenges.  These challenges include operating at different time-scales and integrating dissimilar types of data into a unified, holistic format compatible with both existing and near-future embedded flight control system for UAV and UAM systems.

2            Secured autonomy our second technical challenge TC2: For future secured autonomy in UAM systems resolving issues surrounding operations in potentially hostile environments with highly dynamic situations, the system’s inherent heterogeneity among cyber and physical components, the large-scale overall system, and limited computation/processing capability of individual components poses complex challenges.  TC2 investigates the system's capability to handle malicious cyber-physical activities based on the strength and potential for damage and categorized into five levels: (1) Low (2) Guarded (3) Elevated (4) High and (5) Severe.  Accordingly, cyber-attack detection and accommodation techniques will be developed while considering the overhead added to the system by the cyberattack detection algorithms as a percentage value of memory, time, and power.

3            Verification & Validation (V&V) and Test & Evaluation (T&E) is the third challenge, TC3: The hybrid dynamics of complex cyber-physical systems within UAM networks are difficult to model and analyze to enable reasoning concerning human interference, intervention, guidance, and assistance.  Therefore, novel V&V and T&E tools that are scalable and modular, and that can flexibly accommodate evolving specifications and requirements, are needed Effective V&V and T&E frameworks in TC3 provide provable guarantees of correctness in the UAM network, improve safety, and provide certification methodologies for autonomous operation in the airspace.

4            System integration is the final component we will address in TC4: Proper integration of the emerging secure and safe autonomy algorithms into practical flight software is challenging and complex.  Moreover, experimenting developed algorithms in different environments (dynamic simulation system, small-scale Indoor Flight Facility (IFF), and large-scale Outdoor Flight Facility (OFF)) and performing different missions (with dependency analytics, integrated simulation (SIM) and experimental flight tests through fast learning cycles) is the required outcome to ensure robust integration and operations, i.e., a system that the public can trust and accept.  The projects’ industry partners play a central and crucial role in TC4.

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