For FAA Employees & Managers
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Current Innovations - Available for Licensing
Aircraft Deicing - Deicing Decision Support Tool (DST) - Smooth and efficient operation of the National Airspace System depends on timely execution of flight-related events. Weather can severely disrupt the carefully planned flight schedules at a hub airport and impact travelers throughout the country. In particular, a snowstorm may cause substantial perturbation in the departure of aircraft due to the need for deicing prior to take off. The additional time needed for an aircraft to be deiced, including time in queue, is highly nonlinear and difficult to predict. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Administration, has developed a deicing decision support tool. The Deicing Decision Support Tool (DST) estimates the amount of time an aircraft takes to go through deicing. This timing information maximizes the efficiency of deicing operations by minimizing wait times for aircraft in the queue for treatment thus enabling the airport, airlines, and air traffic controllers to work together to minimize delays and cancellation of flights by optimizing airport and flight resources. It is currently patented under US Patent 7,725,410 (PDF).
Apparatus and Method to Generate and Detect Virtual Targets - An apparatus and method to generate virtual targets by providing ADS-B RF signals to an aircraft on which the device is placed so that the ADS-B receiver on board the test aircraft receives these signals and processes the ADS-B messages as if the messages were transmitted by real targets. It is designed to support flight test activities by providing a means to inject additional virtual aircraft to a flight test aircraft with an on-board ADS-B receiver so that applications requiring ADS-B Reports can utilize the virtual aircraft. The device thereby reduces the number of aircraft required to fly in test and validation flight tests while enhancing fidelity of testing. With the exception of unit source power, the device does not require physical connections to aircraft to avoid alterations to the aircraft installation. The device provides the virtual target data by inputting a virtual target scenario and acquiring the test aircraft position data from real position information obtained from GPS satellites or other external or internal sources. This virtual position information is coded, mixed with a carrier frequency, amplified, and radiated to the test aircraft. The amplitude of the radiated signal is adjusted such that the signal containing the virtual position information is received by the test aircraft only. The radiated signal thus adjusted is below the detection threshold of any aircraft further away. The test aircraft decodes the signal and interprets the decoded virtual position information as real aircraft in its vicinity. The coded signals may be structured to comply with the requirements of the FAA's ADS-B system. The apparatus may be mounted on the test aircraft itself, or on a nearby aircraft. It is currently patented under US Patent 8,604,965 (PDF).
A Microscale Combustion Calorimeter has been developed to rapidly measure the heat release of milligram polymer (plastic) samples in a convenient laboratory test that simulates the conditions in a fire. Fire parameters measured in the test include the rate at which heat is released by burning, the amount of heat released, and the temperature at which heat is released (ignition temperature). Each material produces a unique flammability fingerprint from which these quantitative test parameters are derived and used to provid an estimate of the fire hazard of materials in public transportation, electrical/electronic products and construction when only research quantities are available for testing. Applications includde screening new materials and additives for fire resistance, quality control of flame retardant plastics required to pass regulatory fire tests, and product surveillance. It is currently patented under US Patent 5,981,290 (PDF) and 6,464,391 (PDF).
The Adiabatic Expansion Nozzle produces a continuous gas/solid or gas/aerosol stream from a liquid having a high room temperature vapor pressure. It is currently patented under US Patent 6,116,049 (PDF). A cutaway piece of the product prototype is available for viewing at the WJHTC. A video of the nozzle in action can be found here.
Localizer Cable Fault Analyzer - The FAA has designed a Localizer Cable Fault Analyzer capable of quickly pinpointing an intermittent antenna fault in Instrumental Landing System (ILS) equipment. The device can be connected to equipment, allowing technicians to quickly identify and then repair the malfunctioning antenna, which can significantly reduce the amount of time a runway is out of service. This can have a direct impact on flight delays. In 2011, the FAA mass produced this device and deployed 600 of them for use at airports across the nation. Priority was given to major airports with Category III and Category II runways. The device is currently patented under US Patent 7,592,816 (PDF).
Current Opportunities for Collaboration
Multi-Core Processors - Commercial off-the-Shelf (COTS) multi-core microprocessors have become the mainstay for personal computers. Most avionics systems use single core microprocessors since multi-core processors are relatively new, are very complex, and may exhibit non-deterministic behavior when multiple threads share the same internal resource. Single core microprocessors will eventually become obsolete forcing the aerospace industry to use multi-core microprocessors in airborne equipment. This research will investigate and make recommendations to address the potentially non-deterministic behavior with multi-threading on a real time operating system running on two or more processor cores. Because of complexity of the multiple processor cores, multi-threading operating system and the application software it may be difficult to ensure that the system can satisfy all of the timing requirements for the real time execution of multiple threads. The operating system may need to ensure that high-priority tasks have priority across all of the processors to include any internal peripherals and not just a core. The use of multi-core processors may require different analysis methods, design tools and programming techniques from those currently used. The results of this research will be useful in developing guidance and training on airborne software/hardware assurance in general and verification and testing of multi-core processors in particular. The recommendations of the research may also be used to update of the standards.
Fire Resistant Resin Systems - A thermosetting resin derived from a natural product called resveratrol was recently synthesized by the U.S. Navy Air Warfare Center (NAVAIR) and found to have outstanding fire resistance when tested at milligram scale by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Resveratrol is an antioxidant plant compound containing no halogens that is thought to protect humans from cancer and heart disease. The dual use (civilian/military) collaborative program would develop a low cost, high yield, environmentally-benign synthetic or natural process route to kilogram quantities of resveratrol that could be scaled-up to metric tons for commercial production. The phase I program would involve producing kilogram quantities of resveratrol, converting resveratrol to the cyanate ester (RCE) and epoxy (REP) resin at kilogram scales, and fabricating fiber-reinforced RCE and REP composites for evaluation of fire resistance and fire protection efficacy in collaboration with NAVAIR and FAA.
Fuel Cell Propulsion Technology - Fuel cell technology, which converts the chemical energy of a fuel into electrical energy without combustion, is much more efficient than combustion and relies on a source of hydrogen. The technology greatly improves engine-out emissions over that of combustion; therefore having a fuel cell for GA aircraft that could utilize multiple sources of fuel (100LL, mogas, Jet A, biojet, etc.) would be desirable, and would support the advancement of all electric aircraft. Some of the challenges of using fuel cell technology include: battery maintenance, charging effectiveness, system monitoring, increased cooling demands, ability to fly in the rain, accurate gauging, and lightening protection. A study identifying the issues surrounding use of multi-fuel fuel cells for electric propulsion in general aviation, including research and development needs and testing methodologies to address certification issues is needed. The work would be used to address certification policy decisions in the FAA.
Rotor Fatigue Life Evaluation - The life of a turbine engine rotor component is primarily based on the remaining low cycle fatigue (LCF) life in the material. This is a property that currently cannot be measured by any technique other than destructive spin-pit testing. Development of an innovative nondestructive technique to assess the remaining LCF life would provide a tool of great value to engine OEMs and the airline industry. Recent work has suggested that there may be an approach to achieving this goal. Materials of interest include Nickel or Titanium alloys. Although not a necessity, offerers should identify a partner within the aviation community (i.e., an engine OEM, aircraft operator, or repair station) who will serve as an advisor and advocate for the project. Also, to the extent possible, offerers should provide any existing data to substantiate their collaborative initiative.