NASA responds to global events changing aviation with a strategy that puts "vision" back in aeronautics research.
NASA planners started with global trends that might relate to aviation, concentrating on economics, technology and the environment; such as, the Asia-Pacific region is seeing rapid economic growth marked by increased urbanization and a growing middle class, changes that will create millions of potential new customers of aviation services. Other trends include the quickening pace at which revolutionary technology is invented and then widely adopted, as well as the ongoing environmental concerns related to the climate and availability of energy sources.
Informed by these emerging global trends, NASA identified three "mega-drivers" expected to shape aviation within the next 20 to 40 years.Relates to the expected growth in demand for all air services across the planet. How must aviation change so it can fly enough to meet the worldwide demand every day, routinely and safely?Deals with global climate issues, resources and energy. How can aviation's impact on the environment be lessened? And are plentiful but significantly less expensive sources of energy available?Involves incorporating new technology into aviation. How can the aviation community best take advantage of the incredible advances being made in areas not usually tied to aeronautics, such as power storage and robotics?
Six areas of research were identified in the vision that will allow NASA to best deploy its resources and prioritize its goals:Safe, efficient growth in global operations that will enable the Next Generation Air Transportation System in the United States by 2035 and safely expand capacity of the global airspace system to accommodate growth in air traffic.Innovation in commercial supersonic aircraft that will provide data for a low level sonic boom standard that could lead to permission for supersonic flight over land.Ultra-efficient commercial transports that will pioneer technologies for future generations of commercial transports that simultaneously reduce noise, fuel use and emissions.Transition to low-carbon propulsion that will enable industry to move toward and adopt use of low-carbon fuels and alternative propulsion systems.Real-time, system-wide safety assurance in which tools are developed for use in creating a prototype of an integrated safety monitoring and assurance system that can detect, predict and prevent safety problems in real time.Assured autonomy for aviation transformation that will enable the utilization of higher levels of automation and autonomy across the aviation system, particularly as it relates to unmanned aerial systems and remotely piloted vehicles.