Introduction to Higher Airspace Operations

There is no official definition or name for higher airspace—a region expected to host a highly diverse set of operations. To best manage performance extremes, traffic management must focus on strategic deconfliction as opposed to tactical.

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Emerging technologies associated with new entrants allow vehicles to fly faster, farther, higher and longer. These vehicles are vertically expanding the use of the National Airspace System. Their desired region of operation, known as Higher Airspace, starts where civil manned operations top out at 51,000 feet and ends where atmospheric density can no longer sustain lift through aerodynamics. This region is expected to be home to extremely diverse operations, from supersonic passenger transport to long endurance solar unmanned aircraft. However, the majority of these operations will be cooperative and known to air traffic control.

This presentation offers an overview of higher airspace and expected operations. It includes updates on recent activities by industry and air navigation service providers, and also provides an overview of MITRE’s research on strategic deconfliction. It features an in-depth description of MITRE’s collaboration with industry, proposing adaptive risk-based conflict detection as a possible solution for non-traditional categories.