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NASA Selects Robust Analytics for Two Research Contracts to Support Air Traffic Research

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

NASA issued two contracts to Robust Analytics to support continued research into autonomous flight and improved air traffic management. NASA selected Robust Analytics under the highly competitive 2019 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The projects will expand RA’s research in support of safe autonomous fleet operations and to improve efficiency and safety in today’s air traffic environment.


Our <strong>Operational Risk Collaboration Assistant (ORCA)</strong>concept integrates heterogeneous data and advanced analytics to provide airlines and the FAA with models to predict potential operational risks to flight operations into high-traffic airports. We define operational risk from the airline perspective as the likelihood that flights will be delayed, re-routed, or cancelled due to weather, congestion, and FAA decisions.

ORCA aims to support airlines operating in a TBO environment in which they collaborate with the FAA to define objectives, share constraint information, develop plans, and share responsibility in the execution. In this vision, operators require the ability to predict with greater accuracy than today the operating conditions and constraints will develop over the next several hours. Improved predictive capability will enable airlines to build more efficient flight plans and prepare alternatives should operating conditions change.

ORCA will provide airlines with the ability to better predict operational conditions at destination airports, allowing them to build better flight plans and manage their network operations to improve on-time performance, customer satisfaction, and assist the FAA in matching demand at choke points to available capacity. Our tool will also provide a model for airlines to make decisions under uncertainty, balancing the costs of different outcomes. For the FAA, ORCA offers a tool to integrate multiple factors into a probabilistic assessment of ever-changing conditions and their potential impact on flight safety and efficiency.


Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and other non-traditional airspace operations present a new set of challenges to operators and air navigation service providers (ANSPs). In addition to meeting existing requirements for aircraft operational control and safety, operators will need to maintain operational control over their aircraft at all times, eventually without a pilot-on-board to monitor flight systems and control the vehicle. Future aircraft will possess vastly different performance envelopes and often fly in different environments, at lower altitudes with even less predictable weather, and more diverse aircraft. Concepts to overcome these challenges will require extensive planning before receiving approval for operational use.

Individual components of a UAM network have been active topics of research, but the community lacks the ability to evaluate how these components will work together. This requires a test environment that emulates operator monitoring and control systems, realistic traffic patterns and density, data on the operating environment to include urban geography and low altitude weather, and the flexibility to accommodate different vehicles. We propose the creation of an integrated Dispatch flight planning and monitoring tool, built off Robust Analytics’ past work creating flight monitoring dispatch tools. The <strong>City Air Mobility Evaluation Operations Suite (CAMEOS) </strong>would combine flight planning and operational control tools for this nascent industry as it begins to offer flights and increase fleet sizes, integrated in a Dispatch flight monitoring tool.

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