Finding. Potential Benefits and Risks. The intensity and extent of autonomy-related research, development, implementation, and operations in the civil aviation sector suggest that there are several potential benefits to increased autonomy for civil aviation. These benefits include but are not limited to improved safety and reliability, reduced acquisition and operational costs, and expanded operational capabilities. However, the extent to which these benefits are realized will be greatly dependent on the degree to which the barriers that have been identified are overcome, the extent to which military expertise and systems can be leveraged, and the extent to which government and nongovernment efforts are coordinated.
Finding. Barriers. There are many substantial barriers to the increased use of autonomy in civil aviation systems and aircraft:
• Technology Barriers1
—Communications and data acquisition,
—Diversity of aircraft,
—Decision making by adaptive/nondeterministic systems,
—Sensing, perception, and cognition,
—System complexity and resilience, and
—Verification and validation.
• Regulation and Certification Barriers
—Airspace access for unmanned aircraft,
—Equivalent level of safety, and
—Trust in adaptive/nondeterministic IA systems.
1 The committee did not prioritize the barriers; they are listed alphabetically within each group.
• Additional Barriers
—Legal issues and
Finding. Development of New Regulations. As with the previous introduction of significantly new technologies, such as fly-by-wire and composite materials, the FAA will need to develop technical competency in IA systems and issue new guidance material and regulations to enable safe operation of all classes and types of IA systems.
Recommendation. National Research Agenda. Agencies and organizations in government, industry, and academia that are involved in research, development, manufacture, certification, and regulation of IA technologies and systems should execute a national research agenda in autonomy that includes the following high-priority research projects, with the first four being the most urgent and the most difficult:
- Behavior of Adaptive/Nondeterministic Systems. Develop methodologies to characterize and bound the behavior of adaptive/nondeterministic systems over their complete life cycle.
- Operation Without Continuous Human Oversight. Develop the system architectures and technologies that would enable increasingly sophisticated IA systems and unmanned aircraft to operate for extended periods of time without real-time human cognizance and control.
- Modeling and Simulation. Develop the theoretical basis and methodologies for using modeling and simulation to accelerate the development and maturation of advanced IA systems and aircraft.
- Verification, Validation, and Certification. Develop standards and processes for the verification, validation, and certification of IA systems, and determine their implications for design.
- Nontraditional Methodologies and Technologies. Develop methodologies for accepting technologies not traditionally used in civil aviation (e.g., open-source software and consumer electronic products) in IA systems.
- Roles of Personnel and Systems. Determine how the roles of key personnel and systems, as well as related human–machine interfaces, should evolve to enable the operation of advanced IA systems.
- Safety and Efficiency. Determine how IA systems could enhance the safety and efficiency of civil aviation.
- Stakeholder Trust. Develop processes to engender broad stakeholder trust in IA systems for civil aviation.