The holiday season is upon us and that means crowded airports and delayed flights. Researchers at NASA's Langley Research Center are working to change that. They are conducting studies to help reshape the future of American air travel in a brand-new Air Traffic Operations Laboratory (ATOL). They are studying the Next Generation Air Transportation System, a new national airspace technology being implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ed Scearce, operations manager at NASA Langley's Air Traffic Operations Lab. (NASA/David C. Bowman)

Over the next decade or so, the FAA will transition the country's air traffic control network from a limited ground-based system of radar sites, to an expanded space-based system of satellites, helping to move the ever-increasing volume of American air traffic in and out of the nation's airports more quickly and safely.

NASA’s role is to use both its new lab space and the Airspace and Traffic Operations Simulation software (ATOS) to test NextGen algorithms, operational concepts, and flight deck displays. They're also evaluating the integration of vehicles such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System.

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