Aviation Research and Development

CAASD's research and development program delivers transformational solutions to aviation's biggest problems.

This is a crucial time in the evolution of our aviation system. Airlines' changing business models are requiring more efficient and cost-effective operations. General aviation operators are seeking to tap into some of the safety solutions that have worked for commercial aviation. The public wants an enhanced air travel experience as well as reduced aviation impacts to the environment. Meanwhile, advances in technology have brought forth new vehicle types and new users—with a wide variety of operational styles and missions—that are vying for access to the National Airspace System (NAS).

At MITRE, our R&D program produces game-changing solutions to these and other aviation challenges and helps provide tools to inform key FAA decisions.

We align our research strategy closely with the FAA's goals and needs, and with the needs of aviation system users. Our research addresses these four areas:  

  • Improving Access—The unmanned aircraft system and commercial space industries continue to grow at a rapid rate, so we are working to develop innovative solutions to safely accommodate these new entrants in a way that does not impinge upon the efficient operations of more traditional users of civil airspace.
  • Enhancing Efficiency—This includes developing new tools to combat the challenges of adverse weather on efficient air traffic management, and employing advanced navigation technology to reduce flight time, costs, and environmental impact. We also develop and apply modeling and simulation capabilities to inform FAA decision making on NextGen concepts, policies, and procedures. And we are working to support increased compatibility among nations and vehicles across the connected international aviation infrastructure.
  • Ensuring Safety—We have had success in identifying potentially unsafe conditions—before accidents occur—through advanced data analytics, and we continue to refine these efforts. At the same time, we are working to develop decision aids that can better support pilots and air traffic controllers to fully understand the complex environments in which flight occurs. And we are adapting existing technologies to help provide real-time data to pilots and controllers that can alert them in advance to possible risks.
  • Strengthening Security—As aviation becomes more and more reliant on technology and interconnected systems, it is vital that we protect these systems from unauthorized or hostile activity that could disrupt operations or create safety risks. We are therefore working on ways to identify and counter security risks and to ensure that aviation systems are resilient even in the face of technological failure or hostile actions, such as cyber attacks.

As we work to support our FAA sponsors to address these and other critical needs, we are also conducting research to determine how we can translate our successes in the aviation industry to other modes of transportation. For instance, we are exploring how we can apply the aviation safety data sharing and analysis approach we've successfully used in the aviation domain to improve safety in other modes of transportation, such as rail and mass transit. Likewise, our work to accommodate new types of vehicles, secure aviation systems from cyber attack, and improve the resiliency of those systems all have applications to other transportation modes.

In all these efforts, we seek to collaborate or partner with other organizations—academia, industry, and government agencies—to find the right concepts, approaches, and technologies to meet these challenges.

Our goal with every successful discovery is to transfer our innovation to sponsors, to industry, or internally to our laboratories. As a result, the products of our research are now working domestically and across the globe to support the evolution of the aviation industry.

For more information see Technology Transfer.

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Read our fact sheet to learn more about the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development.