Research Projects

ACRP Insight Event - Future of Aviation In Reserve

Assigned to Adam Cohen
Last Edited by Adam Cohen

This is a proposal for a two-day ACRP Insight Event on the Future of Aviation at the Beckman Center. The findings from this event would be used to help develop an ACRP future of aviation research roadmap (please see below for more details). The proposed location is recommended due to its closer proximity to key aviation and technology companies and thought leaders who may be interested in planning and/or participating in the event. North Los Angeles County/Eastern Kern County is home to some of the most innovative and specialized technologies in the world. The region's aerospace programs stand at the forefront of an industry gaining international recognition for space tourism and the first-ever privately-funded spaceflight, while the area's advanced aviation research is supported by the NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC), Edwards Air Force Base, and China Lake Naval Air Station.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Aviation is undergoing a dramatic transformation. A variety of technological developments are converging that have the potential to reshape the industry, airport access, operations, and the passenger experience, to name a few. Automated and electric vehicles have the potential to change landside access and airside operations. Electric vertical take-off and land (eVTOL) present new opportunities and challenges for airport access and air traffic management. And the need to pursue carbon neutral propulsion solutions, whether through electrification, sustainable fuels, or other technologies represent notable challenges that will continue to confront the industry. The goal of this ACRP Insight Event is to foster a dialogue around these (and other) key issues confronting the future of aviation that can be used to help prepare the industry and guide future ACRP research.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The ACRP Insight Event would be a two-day workshop with a combination of plenary and breakout sessions. Potential topics/sessions could include:

The Future of Landside Access
The recent growth of transportation network companies creates a number of opportunities and challenges for landside revenue and long-range capital planning. This session could focus on how new technologies could impact landside access, such as privately-owned automated vehicles, shared automated vehicles, urban air mobility, hyperloop, and others. This session could include synergies and collaboration with other TRB activities on vehicle electrification and automation.

Automation and Electrification of Airside Vehicle Operations
This session (or breakout session) could focus on a discussion of electric and automated airside vehicle movement to support service equipment including but not limited to refueling, catering, baggage handling, and other airside vehicles. This session could include synergies and collaboration with other TRB activities on vehicle electrification and automation.

Electrification and Sustainable Aviation Fuels
Short-haul flying may likely to go electric within the next few decades and this will transform the way we think of air travel. Additionally, this has notable implications for airport design to accommodate fast charging, longer aircraft dwell times, and possibly battery swapping. This session could focus on opportunities and challenges to achieving aircraft electrification and jet fuels made from renewable sources.

The Future of Aircraft
This session(s) could focus of aircraft technological developments, such as vertical take-off and land (VTOL), electric aircraft, and supersonic and hypersonic travel. This session(s) could be split into topic-specific break-out sessions to focus on specific design and technology developments, if needed.

The Future of Regulation: Preparing for Tomorrow
As emerging aviation technologies drive new business and service models, the public sector must rapidly create, modify, and enforce regulations. The preeminent issue is how to protect the public and ensure fair markets while letting innovation and businesses flourish. This session could focus on changes in the policy and regulatory environment to accommodate emerging aviation technologies and practices.

A Changing Passenger Experience
A combination of new technologies could present opportunities to re-imagine the passenger experience. Automation, robots, artificial intelligence, digitalization, and visualization, all create new opportunities to enhance passenger comfort and service, change crew roles and processes, and create new opportunities for ancillary revenue. For example, sensor technology could enable airlines to monitor the physical and mental well-being of passengers through sensors built into their seats (e.g. heart rate measurement etc.). Applying (humanoid) robots for serving passengers - including meal & drink service, collecting waste, passenger questions - could lead to less crew / no crew scenarios in the entire cabin or specific cabin classes / zones. Automated baggage handling (checked and carry-on) and automated cabin trolleys could autonomously manage bags, delivery beverages, and pick-up garbage. This just represents some of the many ways technology could change the ground and in-flight passenger experience. This session could focus on technology applications that could impact the future passenger experience, both on the ground and in the air.

Changing Business Models in Aviation
Over that past few decades, the aviation industry has seen a number of changes, such as the reduction in landside parking revenue; the growth of a-la-carte pricing and low-cost carriers; and market consolidation. Changes in business models and revenue generation could impact airport and aircraft design and passenger experiences. This session could focus on changing sources of revenue and its implications for the broader sector.

Changes in Air Traffic Management
Air traffic management is undergoing vast transformation. NextGen Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) using satellite tracking will provide enhanced coverage in the coming years. With NextGen, both pilots and air-traffic control will have real-time displays of air traffic. This session could focus on potential changes (ongoing and needed) in air traffic management in response to other changes in aviation, such as urban air mobility, drones, etc.

Future of Aviation Security
This session could focus on developments in aviation physical and digital security. For example, an increasing number of airlines and countries are turning to biometrics and facial recognition to automate security processes. Artificial Intelligence, for example, is being used for facial recognition. This involves determining what a "live" face is opposed to a mask or an artificial image of a face, which is critical to maintaining security at an unattended bag drop. Airlines are also looking at blockchain for data sets that are shared by many parties. This session could focus on technologies that could be used to improve airport and passenger processes to enhance physical and digital security.

Future of Air Delivery
This session could focus on a variety of developments impacting the future of air delivery, such as unmanned aircraft systems (e.g., drones) and possible applications for robotics and automation, in the context of air container security screening, loading, and delivery.

Preparing for Space Tourism
This session could focus on developments, opportunities, and challenges to achieving space tourism, including but not limited to suborbital aircraft.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Unknown. Budget would be built off of existing ACRP Insight Events.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The findings from this event would be used to help develop an ACRP future of aviation research roadmap that could include a variety of topics, such as: big data, biometrics, robotics, automation and electrification, sustainable fuels, and changes in aircraft design that could impact airport access, operations, design, and long-range planning.

Idea No. 163