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Needs and Opportunities, Technology Implications, and the Future Role of NASA

FUTURE NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES

Although there were differences among the five scenarios, future needs and opportunities for aeronautics and the air transportation system, in their broadest context, were not found to be revolutionary. People, cargo, and weapons will still need to be transported by air throughout the world over various distances and at various speeds. The systems, vehicles, and subcomponents required to meet those needs, however, may demand significant technological breakthroughs and therefore are in themselves revolutionary. Examples include high-speed civil transports using alternative fuels or very large subsonic aircraft using more lift-efficient wing forms that are still small enough in span to allow for operations at existing airports with existing runway structures.

There are many areas of aeronautics technology that, although not revolutionary, met critical needs in one or more of the five scenarios or provided substantial opportunities for the air transportation sector. Therefore, these technologies must be included in the future aeronautics R&D portfolio of the United States. Some examples include lighter, stronger, and safer materials; engines with reduced fuel consumption and environmental impact; and improved air traffic management. Furthermore, there is a need for more emphasis on technology validation and verification to allow more rapid product certification.

Revolutionary changes in operating principles also may be required to implement many of the aeronautics technologies and technical systems required to meet future needs and enable future opportunities. For example, the widespread implementation of autonomous ATM will require substantial changes in philosophy for many users and operators of the current ATM system. Acceptable global standards for technology and procedures that could accommodate different political and social cultures also would be required. In many ways, these challenges are greater than the technological ones.



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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise 3 Needs and Opportunities, Technology Implications, and the Future Role of NASA FUTURE NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES Although there were differences among the five scenarios, future needs and opportunities for aeronautics and the air transportation system, in their broadest context, were not found to be revolutionary. People, cargo, and weapons will still need to be transported by air throughout the world over various distances and at various speeds. The systems, vehicles, and subcomponents required to meet those needs, however, may demand significant technological breakthroughs and therefore are in themselves revolutionary. Examples include high-speed civil transports using alternative fuels or very large subsonic aircraft using more lift-efficient wing forms that are still small enough in span to allow for operations at existing airports with existing runway structures. There are many areas of aeronautics technology that, although not revolutionary, met critical needs in one or more of the five scenarios or provided substantial opportunities for the air transportation sector. Therefore, these technologies must be included in the future aeronautics R&D portfolio of the United States. Some examples include lighter, stronger, and safer materials; engines with reduced fuel consumption and environmental impact; and improved air traffic management. Furthermore, there is a need for more emphasis on technology validation and verification to allow more rapid product certification. Revolutionary changes in operating principles also may be required to implement many of the aeronautics technologies and technical systems required to meet future needs and enable future opportunities. For example, the widespread implementation of autonomous ATM will require substantial changes in philosophy for many users and operators of the current ATM system. Acceptable global standards for technology and procedures that could accommodate different political and social cultures also would be required. In many ways, these challenges are greater than the technological ones.

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise Robust, Significant, and Noteworthy Needs and Opportunities The workshop participants utilized the iterative round-robin process described in Chapter 1 to distinguish between future needs and opportunities that were "robust," "significant," or "noteworthy." Table 3-1 illustrates this distinction for each type of need or opportunity identified by each world team and discussed in Chapter 2. Robust needs and opportunities were those cross-cutting items that fit within the environment of every future scenario. Significant needs and opportunities were critically important to three or four of the scenarios. Noteworthy needs and opportunities were items that were novel and, although important, applied to only one or two scenarios. TABLE 3-1 Robust, Significant, and Noteworthy Needs and Opportunities ROBUST SIGNIFICANT NOTEWORTHY Common to all scenarios Less common but vital to some scenarios Specialized and unique Air Traffic Management satellite-based, autonomous, tailored Access to Space small payloads, low cost, on demand Short-to-Medium Range Aircraft VSTOL, commuter, infrastructure independent, military special operations Airport Infrastructure constrained, austere, tailored Supersonic Aircraft long range, large, and low capacity Stealth Aircraft evade terrorist threats, quiet over populated areas Safety/ Survivability significant accident reduction, survive natural and man-made threats Subsonic Aircraft large, small, long and short range General Aviation increased activity, part of a customer-tailored air transportation system Manufacturing agile, virtual, validation, certification Air Cargo large, low-cost, specialized and reconfigurable aircraft Tailored and Smart Materials reduced fuel consumption and enhanced safety   Uninhabited Air Vehicles weapons, surveillance, intelligence Microelectro Mechanical Systems reduced fuel consumption and vehicle size   Environment noise, emissions, hydrogen fuels Sonic Boom Mitigation enable supersonic flight over populated areas   Security Systems airport, aircraft, terrorist threat     Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing (VSTOL) Aircraft short, medium, and long range, stealth, infrastructure independent, military special operations     Skilled Training and Education distributed and tailored training  

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise Findings Challenging Needs and Opportunities Scenarios that reflected a favorable future for air transportation and aeronautics, such as "Pushing the Envelope," place challenging demands on technology. For example, an air transportation system that is characterized by higher volumes of traffic, tightly constrained operating environments, austere and sophisticated infrastructures, improved efficiency and flexibility, and lower accident rates will require challenging evolutionary advances in ATM technology. Aircraft that are more capable or combinations of aircraft types with greatly increased cargo and passenger capacity that can still operate out of existing airports also will require significant technological advances. Specialized Needs and Opportunities Many of the scenarios placed a significant amount of stress on the air transportation system because of the severe operating environments characterized by terrorism, environmental degradation, and regionalization. These conditions create specialized needs and opportunities. For example, reduced business and personal travel, combined with a need for greater long-haul cargo capacity, will require a more decentralized point-to-point air transportation system rather than a hub-and-spoke system. Stronger, more regionalized economies in places with no transportation infrastructures, such as in some developing nations, create an opportunity to develop and export "total air transportation" systems that include aircraft, ATM, maintenance, logistics, and all related infrastructure in one complete package. Military Needs Regional conflicts in most of the scenarios created military needs that included rapid force projection, surveillance, intelligence gathering, and information processing capability. The likelihood of a major global confrontation was low in all the scenarios, but the need for deterrence was still required to provide defense against a rising or resurgent superpower or a rogue nation that has acquired a weapon of mass destruction. Access to Space The need for access to space was driven in four of the five scenarios by a desire for low-cost, launch-on-demand vehicles that could carry small satellites (generally less

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise than 500 kilograms) into Earth orbit for a variety of applications including communications, navigation, surveillance, and intelligence gathering; weather observation to support aviation and provide severe storm warnings and environmental monitoring; and emerging commercial applications in market areas such as agriculture, resource exploration, and land management. Low cost was the overriding requirement for commercial applications, whereas military applications required assured, rapid, and frequent launch-on-demand capabilities. Unmanned launch vehicles were overwhelmingly preferred. Manufacturing Needs and Opportunities In many of the scenarios, it appeared that the aerospace manufacturing infrastructure would need a technology stimulus to maintain the sector's long-term economic competitiveness. An industrywide focus on short-term needs left only the government to support high-risk manufacturing technology that would permit flexible and agile responses to rapidly changing markets and would enable modular production and assembly capabilities. Manufacturing processes that relied on significantly improved modeling and simulation capability were seen as an opportunity to lower the cost and shorten the production cycle for complex products and services. Similarly, many of the scenarios pointed to a need for continued government stimulus of education and training to support a more modeling- and simulation-oriented manufacturing base and to guard against an offshore brain drain and a loss of skilled technicians. SYSTEM LEVEL TECHNOLOGY IMPLICATIONS The steering committee's synthesis of the needs and opportunities discussed in the previous section, and their implications for broad areas of technology development, is provided below. The system level technologies identified under each of the six headings do not appear in order of priority and have not been comprehensively analyzed to determine their relative scientific merit or technical feasibility. They simply represent the principal items discussed at the workshop based on an analysis of the five scenarios and the iterative round-robin process. Further analysis will be needed to justify the spending of scarce R&D funds on many of these areas of technology. New Aircraft Rising economies in Asian nations and elsewhere in the developing world are producing new demands, often in spite of the lack of infrastructure such as airports, air traffic control systems, weather and other information services, and logistics and maintenance facilities. These new markets are likely to demand new types of

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise aircraft. In particular, the steering committee identified a need for technology development focused on the following: short-range cargo and passenger aircraft, with attention to short takeoff and landing and other capabilities for operating within an austere infrastructure long-range, high-capacity supersonic aircraft modular and reconfigurable aircraft to accommodate various mixes of passengers and cargo or to accommodate both military and civilian functions aircraft with on-board air traffic control capability that can operate relatively autonomously with minimal ground support aircraft with on-board repair and maintenance capabilities that offer redundancy, self-inspection, and repair of electronics and other systems aircraft that utilize smart systems, structures, and materials that can detect damage in critical airframe components and respond with autonomous adjustments to ensure safety System Integration in Aircraft Design, Manufacturing, and Operations To maintain its competitive position, the United States will need to foster: the integration of mathematical models (physical, economic, and human), virtual reality,1 and other methods for visualizing and evaluating designs, including planning tools for agile and flexible manufacturing the combination and integration of avionics and other information systems within aircraft and within the air traffic control, aviation weather, and maintenance and repair facilities to ensure reliable communications and efficiency of operation Safety and Security of Passengers and Crews Increasing demand for operational safety, combined with public awareness of the threat of terrorism and increasing air traffic at major airports requires: improved weather observation, forecasting models, and the capability for real-time information dissemination to end users such as pilots and air traffic controllers 1   Virtual reality is a computer-based technology that allows the user to interact with data that give the appearance of a three-dimensional environment or world. The user can "enter" and "navigate" the three-dimensional world portrayed as graphic images and interact with objects in that world as if "inside" that world.

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise on-board, user-friendly decision aids to improve situational awareness and to mitigate human error2 improved aircraft system reliability through fault tolerance and artificial intelligence that would adapt to events such as the loss of critical control surfaces improved systems within aircraft to detect explosives and contraband improved aircraft survivability to bombs, missiles, small armaments, laser beams, electromagnetic impulses, and radio frequency interference, and to weather phenomena such as lightning strikes or wind shear Improved Operating Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness The United States can improve the cost effectiveness and operating efficiency of both civil and military aviation by pioneering the following capabilities: Increased automation of aircraft control and ATM, supervised by human pilots and ground controllers through a much improved global positioning system (GPS) and other sensors and wideband, highly reliable communication. This includes autonomous concepts for enroute as well as terminal operations, both in the air and on taxiways. UAVs to capitalize on the benefits of performance, cost, and crew safety that are made possible by removing humans from the aircraft, which would eliminate their chance of being injured in a crash or captured by adversaries. Initially these vehicles will be used for surveillance and weather observation, but eventually they might be used for aviation applications such as aerial combat and cargo transport. Tailored materials (designed at the molecular level) and smart materials (able to sense their own conditions) with predictable properties that reduce aircraft weight and substitute for current components. This would include airframe materials that combine functions of load bearing, thermal insulation, and vapor impermeability, as well as engine materials to withstand higher temperatures. High-efficiency subsonic propulsion systems that provide improved fuel consumption. Miniaturization of electronics, sensors, and other nonstructural mechanical components to reduce weight and enable new aircraft and propulsion system designs. 2   Situational awareness is a pilot's or crew's awareness of flight conditions such as airspeed, altitude, and geographic location, and their knowledge of the status of the aircraft, such as fuel level and the existence of or lack of mechanical malfunctions.

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise Environmental Protection and Noise Abatement The public will continue to demand reductions in environmental contamination and reductions of acoustic noise over urban areas. As a result, additional environmental regulations or sanctions may be imposed on air carriers, and stricter noise control measures may be enacted. This will require that the United States collaborate with other nations in R&D focused on: propulsion systems that reduce emissions by utilizing alternative fuels, such as hydrogen, or hybrid fuels (one fuel for takeoff and another for cruising) processes (perhaps biologically or chemically based) to break down carbon dioxide into harmless components quieter engines and operations over urban areas, including revolutionary means to mitigate sonic boom effects over populated areas Access to Space Earth orbit provides opportunities for both civilian and military use of satellites for communications, navigation, and surveillance. It is anticipated that commercial firms and other nations will want on-demand access to Earth orbit that is quick and inexpensive. In most cases, sensors and communication devices are likely to be the dominant payloads, which will not require large spacecraft. Although low-Earth orbit was emphasized clearly by the workshop world teams, medium-Earth orbit and geostationary orbit will continue to be used for many satellite-based applications as well. Therefore, the steering committee has identified a need for systems and associated infrastructure to enable low-cost, on-demand delivery of small payloads with sensors or communications packages to any useful Earth orbit. The needs of future manned space activities and space science missions were not discussed. NASA'S FUTURE ROLE IN MAINTAINING U.S. COMPETITIVENESS IN AERONAUTICS The concept of "U.S. Aeronautics, Inc." provided the steering committee with a useful means of focusing workshop participants from government, industry, and academia on the accomplishment of a successful strategic planning workshop. Furthermore, the "future scenarios" planning methodology, although not the only way to conduct a strategic planning process, provided a means for searching out needs and opportunities and, ultimately, a basis for identifying technologies and other implications necessary to preserve options to deal with uncertainty 15 to 25 years in the future. Whatever the methodology, a way to provide a continuum of planning for uncertainty in a consistent and dynamic way is most useful if revisited on a periodic basis.

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise More important, however, the steering committee believes that the workshop and the concept of U.S. Aeronautics, Inc. represented a microcosm of a real partnership between government, industry, and academia. This partnership must continue to be fostered to achieve the goals outlined by the NSTC and, therefore, maintain the competitiveness of the U.S. aeronautics industry. Within this partnership, government must ensure that the conduct of long-term basic and applied research, the development of high-risk technology, the rapid validation of essential design and manufacturing tools and techniques, and the certification of products continue to be focused on these goals. The short-term, low-risk nature of most industry-sponsored R&D, despite the importance of long-term R&D, provides the partnership with no other viable alternative to a key federal role in maintaining the economic competitiveness of a market sector that is contributing favorably to the nation's balance of trade.3 Many options exist for continued government support of long-term aeronautics R&D. These include the rearrangement of current aeronautics R&D functions within the three agencies that currently carry out the majority of aeronautics R&D, which are NASA, the DOD, and the FAA; the assignment of responsibility to an existing government agency other than these three, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); or the creation of an entirely new federal agency. The elimination of an aeronautics program within NASA could be considered as part of any of these three options. However, the steering committee and workshop participants jointly agreed that it is not realistic to expect that government will be radically reinvented to respond to needs and opportunities represented by the five scenarios or, more generally, to the goals outlined by the NSTC. Therefore, the options listed above were rejected, and it was assumed that various agencies in the executive branch such as NASA, the DOD, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the FAA and the various committees of Congress will continue to share responsibility for government-funded aeronautics R&D. Given this assumption, the steering committee believes that within the federal government coordinated, cost-effective planning and implementation of long-term aeronautics R&D can only be accomplished by using the interagency process to designate a lead agency for this role. The steering committee further believes that NASA would best serve as the lead agency, rather than the DOD, the FAA, the NSF, or NIST, for the following reasons: NASA is chartered by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 to "preserve the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical science and technology and the application thereof." No other federal agency has this legislative mandate. The NASA aeronautics enterprise has inherited its fundamental aeronautics R&D focus from its forerunner, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, chartered in 1915. NASA has maintained this focus and has developed and maintained extensive R&D equipment and facilities. Although other federal agencies, such as the DOD and the FAA, also conduct aeronautics R&D and maintain appropriate facilities, this work is carried out in support of their operational missions. In contrast, the mission of NASA's aeronautics enterprise is aeronautics R&D. 3   In 1994, according to the NSTC, the aeronautics industry produced the largest trade surplus of any U.S. manufacturing industry, approximately $25 billion (NSTC, 1995).

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise NASA has been charged by the Office of Management and Budget to develop an integrated national strategy and priorities assessment for civil aeronautics (NASA, 1995). NASA has responded to the goals outlined by the NSTC through its Aeronautics Strategic Enterprise Plan for 1995–2000 (NASA, 1995). This plan includes a preliminary ''road map" or strategic plan for the future of aviation that will be refined as a result of the workshop, this report, and the larger strategic planning process currently under way in the NASA Office of Aeronautics. NASA has several programs currently under way that already involve substantial partnerships between government, industry, and academia. These programs include the Advanced Subsonic Technology (AST) program, the High Speed Research (HSR) program, and the Advanced General Aviation Technology (AGATE) program. The future needs, opportunities, and implications for technology discussed in this report offered no compelling reason for the workshop participants or the steering committee to recommend an alternative to future NASA leadership, although the alternatives mentioned previously were considered. Recommendation. To ensure coordinated, cost-effective planning and implementation of long-term aeronautics R&D within the federal government, the interagency process should be used to designate a lead agency for this role. The steering committee believes that NASA would best serve as the lead agency. Leadership does not imply that NASA alone will have sufficient government funding to maintain the nation's global competitiveness in aeronautics. Nor does it imply that NASA will lead every R&D activity focused on the future aircraft, systems, and technology areas discussed in this report. It simply means that NASA should lead the government, industry, university partnership called for by the NSTC. Clearly, the DOD, the DOT, and the FAA will need to retain control of certain R&D initiatives that are pertinent to their day-to-day operations and national responsibilities. Existing interagency coordinating mechanisms, such as the Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board and the NASA/FAA Coordinating Committee,4 also will continue to play an important role in ensuring effective R&D 4   The Aeronautics and Astronautics Coordinating Board is co-chaired by the NASA Associate Deputy Administrator and the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology. The NASA/FAA Coordinating Committee is co-chaired by the NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and the FAA Associate Administrator for Research and Acquisition.

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Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Aeronautics: Scenario-Based Strategic Planning for NASA's Aeronautics Enterprise coordination. However, the steering committee believes that NASA can provide effective national leadership in maintaining the superiority and competitiveness of U.S. aeronautics through a renewed emphasis on long-term R&D.5 This is particularly true for those areas of research and technology that could have a direct impact on the civil marketplace and in those leading-edge generic research and technology areas that would lead to either military or civilian applications. The same would be true for long-term, high-risk research and technology areas that intersect with FAA responsibilities that relate to aircraft safety, infrastructure efficiency, and environmental impact. As recommended in Aeronautical Technologies for the Twenty-First Century, NASA should take the leadership role in high-risk/high-payoff research related to these areas of shared responsibility (NRC, 1992). An in-depth assessment of the specific programs and long-term R&D activities that NASA should engage in as the lead agency for aeronautics is the next logical step in this current strategic planning process. In addition, the roles of other federal agencies, private sector organizations, and academic institutions that are part of the nation's aeronautics partnership must be carefully considered and defined. The steering committee believes that this next phase of the strategic planning process should again be conducted with broad participation from government, industry, and academia and should proceed without delay. REFERENCES NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 1995. Achieving Aeronautics Leadership: Aeronautics Strategic Enterprise Plan, 1995–2000. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NRC (National Research Council). 1992. Aeronautical Technologies for the Twenty-First Century. Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, Committee on Aeronautical Technologies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. NSTC (National Science and Technology Council). 1995. Goals for a National Partnership in Aeronautics Research and Technology. Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Washington, D.C.: National Science and Technology Council. 5   The steering committee envisions that NASA's role in the development of technology would not extend beyond what is referred to by the DOD as 6.3A—Advanced Development.