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Testing of Advanced Capabilities to Enable In-time Safety Management and Assurance for Future Flight Operations  (2023)
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In order to refine an initial Concept of Operations, explore Concepts of Use, and expose/validate requirements for future In-Time Aviation Safety Management Systems (IASMS), testing architectures were created, along with a set of capabilities and underlying information exchange protocols. These systems were conceived and developed based on hazards associated with two envisioned urban area flight domains: (1) highly autonomous small uncrewed aerial systems (sUAS) operating at low altitudes, and (2) highly autonomous air taxis. The initial scope of this development is described in [1]; this report provides an update, focusing on the subsequent developments and test activities.

As stated in [1], it is important to note that there are many capabilities already in use by the industry (or soon to be in use) that will play critical roles in future IASMS designs. Those reported here were developed to address a gap in the current state-of-the-art regarding specific hazards/risks, and/or to allow for investigation of the interplay between and across hazard types — particularly regarding how overall safety risk can be reduced or managed effectively. Results of testing and development activities are organized by the operational phase wherein a particular capability would be employed (i.e., preflight, in-flight, and post-flight/off-line).

Pre-flight: A set of capabilities were developed to help mitigate safety risk prior to flight (e.g., during flight and mission planning). Results of testing summarize (1) validation activities to raise the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and (2) evaluation activities where the capabilities were applied to flight/mission planning procedures and used by operators/pilots. For the latter, flight plans were automatically assessed, and operators/pilots were notified of hazardous flight segments so as to enable adjustment of the flight plan and re-evaluation, and/or to better inform go/no-go decisions. Capabilities addressed hazards associated with power consumption, third-party risk, wind, navigation system performance, radiofrequency interference, and proximity to geo-spatial threats (e.g., buildings, trees, and no-fly zones).

In-flight: Flight experiments tested capabilities that detect and respond to hazards encountered during flight. In the first series, safety hazards were monitored and assessed onboard, and system-generated mitigation maneuvers were recorded (but not acted upon by the vehicle). In the second series, mitigation maneuver commands directed the aircraft in response to safety hazards (i.e., auto-mitigation). The sUAS used for testing is described in full, as is the test architecture, which included commercial avionics, research avionics, and onboard software designed to detect, assess, and respond to hazards. The onboard system was designed as a run-time assurance framework, consistent with [2] and supportive of both supervisory and automated modes. The primary functions included: real-time risk assessment (RTRA), auto-pilot monitoring, constraint monitoring, and contingency select/triggering. RTRA performs integrated risk assessment considering data from several hazard-related monitors (e.g., battery, motors, navigation, communications, population density, and loss-of-control).

Post-flight/off-line: Data monitored and recorded during flights can enable IASMS capabilities that execute after flights have completed (or "off-line"). These include: (1) the ability to identify anomalies and trends that may only be observable when comparing data spanning a number of similar flights; (2) the ability to update and validate pre-flight and in-flight capabilities and any underlying models to improve their performance; (3) the ability to report anomalies/off-nominals that may indicate design changes or maintenance actions are needed; and (4) the ability for humans involved in operations to report safety-relevant observations to help in understanding the flight data and/or the operational context of a flight. Progress on three such capabilities is summarized; the first investigates anomaly detection given a limited set of flight logs and applies an approach previously used for space operations. The second explores what could be identified using a larger set of flight logs, including from web-based forums where flight logs are posted by sUAS autopilot users. The third creates a new means of collecting information on UAS incidents and accidents via the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).
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Advanced, Capabilities, Flight, Future, In-time, Management, Operations, Safety, Testing
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NASA Technical Memorandum TM-20230018665
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Jessica Nowinski
Last Updated: August 15, 2019