Advances in Trajectory Based Operations and aviation safety require that aircraft participate with improved automation capabilities. However, aircraft avionics evolve very slowly and certification and installation costs pose major hurdles to upgrading existing aircraft. Current Flight Management System (FMS) hardware has limited computing power. Air transportation advancements may be impeded by limitations in introducing new aircraft automation capabilities. Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Urban Air Mobility operations and traffic management will also require novel approaches to affordable, adaptable, vehicle automation capabilities. A possible solution is hosting FMS capabilities as cloud-based services. The Cloud FMS concept proposes an architecture in which flight control and autopilot functions remain on the air vehicle while more strategic navigation and mission planning functions run on cloud computing resources, connected to the vehicle with high-bandwidth/reliability digital communication. Mosaic ATM, working with SmartSky Networks, will assess Cloud FMS feasibility with respect to safety and communication requirements, through experimentation within a simulation environment, utilizing SmartSky’s state-of-the-art air-ground network, analyzing the communication performance characteristics, including bandwidth, latency, integrity, continuity, coverage as a function of latitude/longitude and altitude. This analysis will be performed using SmartSky’s test/performance monitoring data, as well as predictive analytical tools such as RF coverage analysis. Cloud FMS could benefit traditional commercial passenger and cargo aircraft by enabling new automation capabilities with lower certification and installation costs. By reducing vehicle weight and power requirements, Cloud FMS could benefit Unmanned Air Vehicles and urban air taxis. Cloud FMS could also reduce per vehicle cost by replacing an expensive component in a way that scales with quantity more favorably.
This research has application in reducing pilot responsibilities/air vehicles without pilots (e.g., some UAS and UAM) and developing “default safe” or “station keeping” behavior in case of communication or ground-system failure. Current standards provide limited aircraft trajectory intent to ground consumers, the development of Cloud FMS supports trajectory synchronization by exposing more to-be-flown trajectory details.
Non-NASA applications include joint efforts with team member SmartSky Networks to provide communication products in support of cloud-based automation services. Mosaic services include hosting and support of cloud-based NAS data services to support Cloud FMS products for UAS, UAM, or other customers. Additional contributions to FAA TBO trajectory negotiation research are anticipated.