August 14, 2013
Future Of Aviation For NASA Relies On New Key Strategies
[WATCH VIDEO: NASA Introduces Next Gen Air Transport System]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA announced today that it is refocusing its aviation research programs with an eye toward increasing efficiency and safety while reducing costs and the industry’s impact on the environment.
"This new vision puts all the pieces of the puzzle together," said Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics. "It very clearly and effectively makes the link between our research objectives and the nation's priorities, and does so in a way that provides a framework for organizing our efforts as we move forward.”
The NASA officials began by analyzing current global trends with respect to aviation. One of these trends is the rise of the Middle Class among Asian countries. This trend is expected to create millions of new regular aviation customers in the coming years.
"As we looked at the numbers we were really struck by this particular trend," said Robert Pearce, NASA's director of strategy, architecture and analysis within the agency's aeronautics directorate. "With the growth of this middle class and the growth of cities – there's just so many people! And they are going to want, and now be able to afford, to fly like everyone else in the world.”
With current trends in mind, the agency identified three major factors or "mega-drivers" that are expected to shape the future of global aviation. First, NASA said the industry can expect a significant growth in demand. Second, climate change issues and energy resource availability will affect costs and safety. Third, new technologies will enable faster flight and more efficient control of air traffic.
After defining major trends and driving factors, agency officials identified six areas of research for future investment. First, they are wanting to safely expand the global airspace system to accommodate growth in air traffic. Second, NASA plans to look at innovating ‘low sonic boom’ aircraft that could lead to permission for supersonic flight over land. The agency also plans to apply new innovations for commercial transport aircraft.
With an eye toward reducing emissions and fuel use, NASA officials said they plan to focus research on low-carbon propulsion. Finally, the agency said it plans to research more sophisticated safety systems and greater levels of automation in aerospace.
NASA officials said their refocused vision will allow for “game-changing improvements” in aviation in both the short-term and for years to come. They also expect to see a wide range of trailblazing industries and companies making forays into the world of aviation.
"We believe that in order for our nation to remain the aviation leader in the world, we have to change our approach as well or we are not going to be in a position to take advantage of these expected new global opportunities," Pearce said.
The NASA director indicated that his agency is moving forward with research that can benefit aviation on a global scale.
"It's not just about designing better airplanes or devising more helpful air traffic control management tools," Pearce said. "It's about how aviation, in partnership with other industries and other organizations in other parts of the economy, meets the global challenges of our day."