Self-Separation, 4DTs and UASs?

From my last post on the NextGen ConOps:

Restrictions on access to NextGen resources are limited in both extent and time duration to those required to address a safety or security need.

NextGen resources and restrictions on NextGen resources?  I hope they explain this better further along, because flexible “airspace structures” just ain’t going to cut it in the real world.

And now to continue on with Chapter 1:

In NextGen, aircraft are expected to have a wider range of capabilities (e.g. improved avionics, airframes, and engines) than today and support varying levels of total system performance via onboard capabilities and associated crew training. Many aircraft will have the ability to perform airborne self-separation, spacing, and merging tasks and precisely navigate and execute fourdimensional trajectories (4DT). Along with navigation accuracy, aircraft will have varying levels of cooperative surveillance performance via transmission and receipt of cooperative surveillance information, as well as the ability to observe and share weather information. In terms of flight operational performance, a wider range of capabilities regarding cruise speed, cruise altitudes, turn rates, climb and descent rates, stall speeds, noise, and emissions will exist. Aircraft without an on-board pilot (e.g., UASs) will operate among traditional manned, piloted aircraft, and domestic supersonic cruise operations will also be more prevalent.

I find it interesting that Industry thinks “self-separation” will solve so many delay problems in the future.  In my experience, the majority of pilots – let’s say on a visual approach or in a traffic pattern and responsible for their own “self-separation” – tend to give themselves MORE separation between other aircraft than what a controller would have given them if there had been any volume of air traffic.

Maybe flight dispatch – whose responsibilities are schedule and profit – will be making the decisions on the ground.  A major difference from today where it is the pilots in the air – whose SOLE responsibility is the safety of their aircraft and passengers – or the controllers on the ground – whose SOLE responsibility is the safe separation of aircraft.

I’m also curious as to which definition of fourth dimension are they using , the old or the new? (Note:  Take a look at the descriptions of the cubes in Wikipedia’s article and notice how some of the 3-dimensional views have two different 4-dimensional views and vice versa under the new definition.)  I’m obviously old school, since I always believed that time is the fourth dimension.  If that’s the case, then time, schedule, time, schedule, profit.  Hmmm, maybe I can see why Industry would think it’s a good idea.

The UAS concept is strangely alarming to me.  I’m making a (huge?) assumption that they will be cargo-type aircraft, but then again, maybe they’ll start moving passengers without onboard pilots.  It’s not entirely clear.

More supersonic flight?  I know the Concorde had been prohibited from operating from a number of airports because of the damage it caused to buildings – specifically windows – on the ground.  I wonder if technology has improved to where that won’t be an issue in the future.

Aircraft operators are also expected to have a diverse range of abilities and operating modes.  Many operators will have sophisticated flight planning and fleet planning capabilities to manage their operations. Operating modes include all of today’s modes, such as traditional hub/spoke operations, point-to-point flights, military/civil training, and recreational flying. Operational demand may vary among highly structured flights (e.g., today’s air carrier, cargo, or operators), irregularly scheduled flights with frequent trips to regular destinations with variable dates and times (e.g., air taxi operators or business operators with regular customers), and unscheduled, itinerant flights driven by individual events (e.g., lifeguard flights, personal trips, or law enforcement missions). In addition, new types of operations are expected, including UASs that perform a wide variety of missions (e.g., sensor platforms and cargo delivery) and more frequent commercial space vehicle operations (e.g., suborbital flights to low-earth-orbit payload delivery and return missions). Commercial space transport operations are also expected to grow overall, increasing pressures to efficiently balance competing needs for airspace access and  efficiency.

If any of my readers have relevant experience on commercial space vehicle operations, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the various impacts to the “below FL600” operations.  I honestly don’t know enough about it.

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One Response to Self-Separation, 4DTs and UASs?

  1. Pingback: The Costs of NextGen Keep Rising | Martinlady's View Through the Looking Glass

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