10,000-sq-ft NextGen test bed opens

November 10, 2011

An expanded 10,000-square-foot test-bed facility for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) opened Nov. 7 at Daytona Beach International Airport following a congressional field hearing on the airspace-modernization effort.

The product of a partnership between FAA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Daytona Beach International Airport, the Florida NextGen Test Bed “allows the federal government to take advantage of the University and private sector expertise in developing and testing NextGen technologies,” according to a news release from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) highlighted the public-private partnership in a hearing before the ribbon cutting.

“The Florida Test Bed is an example of how the federal government can harness private sector and academic resources in partnership to help modernize our air traffic control system and improve the safety and efficiency of U.S. aviation,” Mica said. “With the development of Next Generation air traffic control technology, software and systems in this area, we have the potential for one of the most significant high paying job opportunities since the start of the space program.”

Engineers have been demonstrating new technologies at the facility since 2008, including en route automation modernization ( ERAM) technology designed to increase flexibility for routing around congestion, weather, and other restrictions. In the expanded facility they expect to deal with the transfer of flight information for airplanes crossing the Pacific Ocean, research into the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System, and the use of four-dimensional trajectories for managing aircraft routes, Embry-Riddle said.

“NextGen is a massive, complicated program, and we have to do it right,” said Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee. “The Florida Test Bed is an example of a public-private partnership that will bring together government, the private sector and academia to move NextGen forward by testing and developing NextGen technologies.”

The FAA administers the test bed and provides guidance for proof-of-concept programs, while Embry-Riddle manages the facility, conducts research, and coordinates the work of engineers from industry and government agencies, the university said. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told the committee in a statement that access to university resources enhances the facility’s effectiveness, and that it will be “the birthplace of industry driven concepts that advance NextGen and its benefits.”