NextGen lab opens

The NextGen Integration and Evaluation Capability (NIEC) display area at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center opened June 7.

The NIEC is a research platform where scientists will use simulation to explore, integrate and evaluate NextGen concepts, including area navigation (RNAV), trajectory-based operations, flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the national airspace system (NAS), and more, according to FAA officials.

NextGen (Next Generation Air Transportation System) is the transformation of the air traffic control system of today to the satellite-based system of the future. NextGen’s new technologies will improve safety, capacity and efficiency on runways and in the nation’s skies and provide environmentally-friendly air traffic control procedures that reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and noise, FAA officials said.

The NIEC’s mission is to foster the exploration, evaluation and integration of NextGen-enabling components. The idea is to rapidly develop prototypes and validate the concepts that will lead to full implementation of NextGen. The NIEC uses existing NAS operating systems and high-fidelity, real-time simulation to create an integrated and flexible environment that can be tailored for NextGen research and test and evaluation.

The display area provides a futuristic NextGen gate-to-gate picture with advanced data collection to support integration and evaluation of new technologies and concepts. Its ability to combine existing systems with future technologies and capabilities means the NIEC will contribute significantly to the transition to NextGen, FAA officials claim.

The NIEC complex features an air traffic control simulation area, a cockpit simulator, an unmanned aircraft system suite, a simulated tower cab interior and a multi-purpose display area. The multi-purpose area can be used to show weather and traffic management data, operate as a simulation monitoring station or simulate an airline operations center. Each NIEC component mirrors a key area in the NextGen “gate-to-gate” spectrum.

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