to current operations, and can provide guidance on applications that appear likely. The level of interest by commercial developers and users can help determine which technology developments merit further attention. Likewise, NASA must continue to involve FAA and state and local agencies in evaluating this technology program. Their involvement is essential to understanding constraints on technology deployment, such as noise, energy efficiency, air pollutant emissions, safety, public finance, and other environmental and social concerns.


The SATS concept has been presented as a way to provide the public with benefits through an expansion of usable airport and airspace capacity without the need for large public-sector investments. The committee did not find justification for this expected outcome and therefore urges NASA to put aside the SATS concept and recommit the program to other, more achievable, goals. The capabilities and technologies being developed under the SATS program may prove useful in ways that are not now apparent. Indeed, many system and vehicle configurations not envisioned for the current SATS concept may emerge. The committee urges NASA to keep such possibilities in mind.

Finally, on the basis of the findings from the review of this program and reviews by others of similar activities,4 the committee recognizes that technology research programs may become oriented toward justifying and furthering particular areas of research without adequately reflecting a connection with real-world needs. The committee commends NASA for requesting this review, which offers the opportunity for the perspectives and advice of experts in transportation and other disciplines not involved in the conception of SATS to be brought to bear. Additional external reviews of program goals and the technical progress toward achieving them are desirable as the restructured program proceeds.



TRB Transportation Research Board

TRB. 1998. Special Report 253: National Automated Highway System Research Program: A Review. National Research Council, Washington, D.C.


For example, several committee members served on the National Research Council’s Committee for a Review of the National Automated Highway System Consortium. That committee reached similar conclusions about the need for external reviews and noted their successful use for other research and development activities, including the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (TRB 1998).

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