Getting the Word Out and Bringing Back the News

MITRE staff are lifelong learners—it’s not hard to engage us in conversation online or in person or both at the same time. Somewhere in the swirl of activity, however, someone needs to capture the connections and outcomes, of course. For MITRE’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, that someone is its chief engineer, Glenn Roberts, the senior leader charged with ensuring the technical quality of our work. Unsurprisingly, his internal community site is called “Eye on Results.” And, wow, even a month’s worth of activity is a feast for anyone’s eyes.—Editor

Photo: Matt Fronzak, Mike Robinson, and Bob Avjian at an Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology Conference session at the AMS Annual Meeting

Author: Marlis McCollum

In January 2017, more than three dozen staff from MITRE’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD) clipped on their conference badges, and headed off to forums of importance to the company and our sponsors.  

Transportation Research Board

The first conference on the agenda was the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) 96th Annual Meeting, which attracted 15,000 transportation professionals. CAASD staff participated as workshop panelists and presenters on such topics as the use of remote towers in air traffic control operations, unmanned aircraft systems, and airline competition and consolidation. Another major motivation for participating was our interest in applying our expertise to non-aviation modes of transportation, particularly rail and auto. “TRB covers all transportation modes—including rail, automobiles, public transportation, and marine transportation—so it’s an ideal venue for learning about what’s occurring in those domains,” says Laurence Audenaerd, coordinator of CAASD’s participation in the meeting. “Surface transportation is a novel area for us, so we engaged in a lot of fact-finding and learning at TRB,” he explained. As part of that effort, Audenaerd presented a paper on how CAASD’s work with aviation safety data sharing initiatives might also work to improve safety in the railroad industry. “We made a lot of good contacts through that presentation,” he says. “The issue of trust resonated strongly with a lot of the folks in the room. They were very focused on how to achieve the trust and collaboration among stakeholders that would be necessary in this approach.”

CAASD staff also attended multiple TRB sessions, gleaning insights that might inform our future work in non-aviation domains. Of particular interest were areas that connect directly to our expertise, such as emerging issues in automated vehicles and highway or railroad safety. “These are the kinds of problems that MITRE is very good at solving,” said Audenaerd. “There has been a growing interest in looking toward aviation for best practices in safety. With our expertise in this domain, we might be able to provide data-rich solutions that could be generalized across the country.”

Sharing Our Expertise at TRB

  1. “Opportunities in Remote Tower Research and Operations” by Kurt Rammelsberg
  2. “Trust and the Public-Private Partnership in Aviation Safety: Parallels for Applicability in the Railroad Industry” by Laurence Audenaerd (presenter), Patricia Massimini, and Gregory Orrell
  3. “Current Research on Airline Consolidation and Congestion” by Katherine Harback (presenter), Simon Tsao, and Len Wojcik
  4. “Unmanned Aircraft Systems – UAS Regulatory Progress and the Path Forward” (Michael Guterres, panelist)
  5. “Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Making It Happen: Applications and Research” (Jeff Breunig, panelist)

SciTech Forum

At the same time the TRB Annual Meeting was taking place, five other CAASD staff were in Texas for the 2017 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Science & Technology Forum, better known as SciTech. Three staff—Lesley Weitz, Dongsong Zeng, and Michael Guterres—presented papers at the conference. They covered CAASD’s research on a novel approach to interval management, on work to improve aeronautical telecommunications network performance, and on our exploration into using Automated Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) as a way for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to see and be seen by other aircraft operating at low altitudes.

In addition to these presentations, Andy Lacher chaired the “Establishing Trust in Autonomous Systems” panel session. The participants explored the increasing use of systems that make and execute decisions based on complex algorithms—with little human oversight—and what will be needed to ensure appropriate levels of trust in these systems, particularly those that could affect human safety, such as autonomous UAS operations. These staff, along with Dave Maroney, also participated in other conference sessions, technical committee meetings, and networking events. And Weitz judged a student paper competition and participated in a panel discussion for undergraduates interested in careers in guidance, navigation, and control. Weitz—who coordinated CAASD’s participation in SciTech—plans to take a closer look at a paper that described the use of game theory as a new way to look at scheduling logic in air traffic control ground automation systems. “I think we might be able to build on that research through our MITRE Innovation Program.

Our SciTech Presentations

  1. “Exploring a Model Predictive Control Law to Design Four-Dimensional Trajectories for Interval Management” by Lesley Weitz (presenter) and Xiaoli Bai (Rutgers University)
  2. “Performance Based Link Restart Concept for Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) Performance Improvement” by Dongsong Zeng (presenter) and John Gonda
  3. “ADS-B Surveillance System Performance with Small UAS at Low Altitudes” by Michael Guterres (presenter), Stan Jones, Greg Orrell, and Rob Strain

AAAE Annual Aviation Issues Conference

Also in early January was the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Aviation Issues Conference, which CAASD general manager Lillian Ryals and portfolio director Doug Molin attended. The conference brought together government and aviation industry leaders to explore topics such as UAS integration, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) privatization proposals, environmental impact issues, and airport security in an increasingly volatile world. Lillian and Doug shared MITRE’s expertise in helping diverse aviation groups gain consensus in a session exploring that process. “We were able to give real examples of how critically important that consensus is,” Molin explains, “and why the lack of it can have such adverse effects on service providers.”

Yet another session highlighted airport security concerns in the wake of the January 6 fatal shootings at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport. “We are working to understand ways we can continue to leverage our Homeland Security expertise in our aviation work—as we’ve begun to do with commercial space issues—so this was a helpful conversation to hear,” Molin says. “This discussion also gave us a chance to talk about how we are working across the FFRDCs represented under the MITRE umbrella.”

Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society

Next in the January conference line-up was the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), which encompassed more than 40 conferences, forums, and symposiums. Four CAASD staff were among the more than 4,500 meeting attendees. Matt Fronzak served as the program chair for the meeting’s 18th Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology (ARAM) Conference, where CAASD’s participation was concentrated. Over the better part of a year, he selected, prioritized, and organized the conference’s content into sessions.

Another CAASD attendee with a prominent role at ARAM this year was Mike Robinson, who chaired the conference’s student competition for Best Paper. Two other CAASD staff were ARAM presenters. Bob Avjian delivered an oral presentation—co-authored by Fronzak and Robinson—that addressed an experimental weather translation system. “That presentation discussed work we’ve been doing for the FAA’s Aviation Weather Division—the Weather Event Detection and Advisory (WEDA) project,” says Fronzak. “WEDA ingests cloud height, visibility, and wind speed and direction forecasts, and translates them into airport-specific parameters that indicate when procedures at the airport may have to be changed. For instance, clouds that are forecast to be at or above 6,000 feet at Atlanta would suggest the use of triple visual approaches.”

Another CAASD presenter at ARAM was John Huhn. He presented a poster on his MITRE-sponsored research project, which combines an Asia Pacific thunderstorm forecast product and historical traffic demand information into a dashboard-style display that enables air traffic controllers to anticipate weather-induced traffic constraints. “The idea is to enable non-radar air traffic controllers in Southeast Asia to be more proactive in re-routing traffic in expectation of these weather events rather than to simply take reactive measures as the events occur,” Fronzak explains. Beyond providing a forum for our own work, the conference provided many other benefits. “We were able to develop important relationships and learn about the availability of leading-edge weather observation and forecast capabilities,” Fronzak notes. One of these capabilities, he says, may play a key role in CAASD’s WEDA work in the future.

ION International Technical Meeting

CAASD closed out the month with the ION International Technical Meeting, which drew hundreds of experts on the science of positioning, navigation, and timing from around the world. “ION holds a few conferences every year, and they have different flavors,” says Chris Hegarty, who serves on ION’s Governing Council, Satellite Division Executive Committee, and Editorial Board. “This one is more intimate than the big fall conference, so it’s a great forum for tracking new developments and having deeper conversations with our colleagues.” Young Lee joined Hegarty at this year’s conference, presenting a paper he co-authored with Brian Bian. The paper, “Analysis of Advanced RAIM Performance Degradation That Can Be Caused by Imprecise Integrity Support Message,” described advancements made in algorithms for GPS receivers that cross-check their measurements to ensure accuracy.

Hegarty co-authored two other papers presented at the conference (see below). One described a study CAASD is conducting for the Department of Transportation that is exploring how to protect GPS from new radio systems operating in spectrum bands adjacent to those used by GPS. The other also related to GPS signal interference. It was co-authored by representatives of several other organizations who are members of RTCA, which produces GPS avionics standards. “Before we produce new avionics standards, we have to report on all of the types of systems that could interfere with GPS, because they have to be factored into the requirements to make sure the standard will work in the intended environment,” Hegarty explains. “This paper described some ways to improve that process.”

ION Technical Meeting Presentations

  1. DOT GPS Adjacent Band Compatibility Assessment Test Results” by Stephen Mackey, Hadi Wassaf, and Karen Van Dyke (U.S. Department of Transportation, OST-R/Volpe Center), Christopher Hegarty (MITRE), and Karl Shallberg (Zeta Associates)
  2. A More Accurate Evaluation of GPS C/A Code Self-Interference Considering Critical Satellites” by AJ Van Dierendonck (AJ Systems), Sai Kalyanaraman (Rockwell Collins), Christopher Hegarty (MITRE), and Karl Shallberg (Zeta Associates)
  3. Analysis of Advanced RAIM Performance Degradation That Can Be Caused by Imprecise Integrity Support Message” by Young C. Lee and Brian Bian

MITRE works with the FAA to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world and to meet the evolving needs of the nation’s airspace. Community engagement at a deep, ongoing level is what makes our work possible.

Marlis McCollum is a writer and editor specializing in corporate storytelling. By translating complex technical concepts, she helps the world understand what MITRE does to make the world a better place.

© 2017 The MITRE Corporation. All rights reserved. Approved for public release; Distribution unlimited. 

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