ERAU NextGen Programs are conducted at the Florida Test Bed (FTB), an agile research and integration facility designed to allow government, industry, and academia to showcase their ideas and technologies in a NextGen National Airspace System (NAS) environment.
The ERAU NextGen Programs has its origins in work conducted by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and members of an Industry Consortium on the Integrated Airport Initiative (IAI), which began in 2006. The IAI project was aimed at demonstrating emerging concepts and capabilities related to NextGen within the scope of air traffic control, as well as airport and airline operations.
Leveraging the work and contributions of the IAI, the FAA established the ERAU NextGen Programs at a government facility while maintaining a cooperative relationship with IAI industry members. The team has continued to support the needs of the FAA while building a solid technological capability.
In general, the early stages of a NextGen advancement — such as rapid prototyping and demonstrations — occur at this Florida site, later stages such as implementation occur at the William J. Hughes Technical Center near Atlantic City, NJ, and space-related projects are worked on at NASA’s North Texas Research Station near Dallas/Fort Worth (TX) International Airport. All three NextGen test beds are built to serve the following purposes:
- Rapid prototype development
- Provide concept integration, demonstration, and evaluation
- Allow end-to-end (multi-domain) demonstrations
- Support demonstration of NextGen components and interaction with existing and arising NAS technologies
- Act as open evaluation platforms to analyze feasibility of new technologies
- Assist incremental migration of NextGen component
Objectives & Mission
The ERAU NextGen Programs supports overarching requirements of all the three test beds and provides the following unique capabilities:
- A robust platform where integration, rapid prototyping, and demonstration takes place without affecting the air traffic operations in National Airspace System (NAS)
- Access to industry, government, and academia via a unique development model that requires investment from all participating parties
- Use of actual NAS systems supplied by industry and government and simulation systems where necessary
- Systems linked via System Wide Information Management (SWIM) and designed to support Trajectory Based Operations (TBO), which are key NextGen-enabling technologies
The mission of the ERAU NextGen Programs is to provide a microcosm of the NAS, with prototype NextGen capabilities that are aligned with planned functionality as depicted by the NAS Enterprise Architecture and Infrastructure Roadmaps.
ERAU NextGen Programs can be used to evaluate concepts, operational research, capabilities, and technologies prior to these being funded, implemented, or fielded at an ERAU NextGen Programs facility. ERAU NextGen Programs integrates multiple flight domains within its facility in order to provide for end-to-end or multi-domain demonstrations and concept evaluations, providing an open platform to help evaluate and examine the feasibility of new technologies.
The ERAU NextGen Programs have furthered NextGen activities by:
- Acting as a platform to conduct NextGen technology and concept evaluations and demonstrations.
- Allowing the FAA to understand prospects of the early-stage concept or technology for implementation and potential benefits and risks.
- Helping the FAA make decisions on potential operational implementations.
The Test Bed allows for concept demonstrations and evaluations that have or will lead to NextGen implementation decision making in the following areas:
- Commercial Space
- Human Factors
- International Harmonization and Interoperability
- Live Flight Demonstrations
- NAS Automation Improvements
- Trajectory Based Operations
- Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS), UAS Traffic Management Systems (UTM) and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)
The Florida NextGen Test Bed (557 Innovation Way, Daytona Beach) is a state-of-the-art, 10,000-plus-foot facility conveniently and strategically located adjacent to Daytona Beach International Airport and near Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
The FTB consists of two primary areas — the Demonstration Suite and the Integration Suite — plus a Data Center which houses the network equipment, rack-mounted servers, and other equipment required to drive the operational capabilities in the Integration and Demonstration Suites.
The approximately 5,000-square-foot Integration Suite is used to carry out development, test, and integration efforts for the operational capabilities being evaluated at the FTB. Here, engineers from industry partners come to incorporate their NextGen product into the National Airspace System in a controlled setting.
Visiting NextGen engineers have access to offices for use as a temporary and private workspace while at the FTB. The Integration Suite also contains a video conference room, which allows for meetings and teleconferences for approximately 20 people with a high degree of technology.
The largest section of the Integration Suite is home to the Integration Area, which contains R&D versions of actual NAS and supporting air traffic control systems, with additional prototype enhancements.
Many times, these tests and integrations are done to prepare for a demonstration of the system to stakeholders in the Demonstration Suite.
The Demonstration Suite is at the core of ERAU’s NextGen Programs mission. It is approximately 5,000 square feet and is used to conduct demonstrations of the operational capabilities deployed at the FTB.
Designed to accommodate flexibility and future growth, the suite contains reconfigurable bay areas positioned along the periphery to accommodate demonstrating and visualizing different flight domains or operational areas.
Large screen displays throughout the suite enable the audience to view activity on certain monitors within the various flight domains, while screens at the front of the suite provide projections of presentations, displays, or other materials. Seats can be organized in a stadium/theatrical arrangement in order to maximize the audience members’ views of the operational capabilities being demonstrated.
Air Traffic Control Systems
The Florida Test Bed contains 18 R&D versions of actual NAS and supporting air traffic control (ATC) systems with additional prototype enhancements. Essentially, it’s enough ATC equipment to control the air space of a small country.
These ATC systems allow for integration, testing, and demonstration of a new NextGen system on air traffic from departure gate to arrival gate. This can be done using actual live air traffic and weather data from the Airspace Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) feed, archived ASDI data from the past, or simulated data provided by pseudo-pilots and air traffic controllers.
This information — and much more — is accessed and shared efficiently and quickly through System Wide Information Management (SWIM), one of the foundations of the Next Generation Air Transportation System.
Using one common messaging infrastructure — the NAS Enterprise Messaging Service (NEMS) — all “trusted” users involved in what goes into an aircraft’s operations have access to the same information, creating a shared common situational awareness.
These are the labeled areas in the Integration and Demonstration Suites, what is controlled in the area, and what systems are used:
Using NextGen’s Time Based Flow Management (TBFM), Air Traffic Managers can more efficiently schedule flight arrival times, taking into account weather and other factors so that a steady — not erratic — flow of traffic comes in and out of airports.
Systems Used: Time Based Flow Management (TBFM)
Systems Used: ERAU Multi-Information Display (EMID); ETA — a flight scheduler system
Systems Used: Surface Decision Support System (SDSS); Collaborative Flight Plan Management system (CFPM)
Operators ensure a fast and efficient turnaround of aircraft, coordinating activities such as the mechanical servicing and cleaning of the aircraft
System Used: Surface Decision Support System (SDSS)
Controllers have a synthetic view of the airport surface at New York-JFK, Miami, or Los Angeles and manage aircraft at the gate and as they taxi to the runway.
Systems Used: Surface Decision Support System (SDSS); ERAU Multi-Information Display (EMID)
Controllers direct aircraft during the departure, descent, approach, and landing phases of flight for one or several airports in a region.
Systems used: Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS); Surface Decision Support System (SDSS)
Air traffic controllers direct and manage aircraft during the en route portion of its flight, monitoring its progress using the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system and instructing pilots of required changes in navigation due to weather or to keep the necessary separation from other air traffic. (Note: There are 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) in the National Airspace System (NAS), and the Florida Test Bed can simulate all 20 of them: Atlanta (ZTL), Boston (ZBW), Cleveland (ZOB), Jacksonville (ZJX), Los Angeles (ZLA), Memphis (ZME), Miami (ZMA), New York (ZNY), Oakland (ZOA), Washington, D.C. (ZDC)Houston (ZHU), Dallas (ZFW), Albuquerque(ZAB), Oakland (ZOA), Seattle (ZSE), Salt Lake (ZLC), Denver (ZDV), Chicago (ZAU), Kansas ZKC), and Indianapolis (ZID) )
System Used: En-Route Automation Modernization (ERAM)
Controls and manages aircraft operations over the oceans using the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) system. Oceanic Control would then pass off management of the U.S.-based aircraft to an International Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP).
Systems Used: Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP)
Control the aircraft from a computer terminal based on communications from ATC through the various phases of the flight.
Systems Used: Flight simulator — pseudo pilot; ERAU Multi-Information Display (EMID) — Electronic Flight Bag; Target Generation Facility (TGF) — target generator or pseudo pilot
- Performance Data Analysis and Reporting System (PDARS) — ATC Analysis
- Target Generation Facility (TGF)
- Mini-Global Viewer — displays flight trajectories and the exchange of information messages
- Trajectory Evaluator — displays and loads flight weather, displays flight trajectories and the exchange of information messages