The evolution of airframes and engines has resulted in modern designs that significantly reduce aviation fuel use, emissions and noise on a per-flight basis. ASCENT researchers conduct the analyses, modeling and testing required to demonstrate the viability of innovative airframe, engine and flight management technologies that reduce noise, emissions, and fuel burn. Future innovations will drive further improvements and the ASCENT research helps accelerate technology development.
ASCENT’s aircraft technology innovation research advances the industry state-of-the-art and expands the technical knowledge base. The scope of the work also complements other governmental aircraft technology research efforts, including FAA’s Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (CLEEN), https://faa.gov/go/cleen, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs.
Alternative jet fuels have the potential to provide benefits to the aviation industry in terms of energy security and reduction in greenhouse gas contribution. Their production can support rural economic growth and job creation through the development of economically valuable feedstock crops and fuel processing facilities. Alternative jet fuels are also considered essential components in the basket of measures needed for the Carbon Offsetting Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
ASCENT is working to facilitate the development and introduction of alternative fuels. Researchers are developing innovative and cost-effective production and distribution systems, evaluating how alternative fuels will affect emissions, air quality, and engine performance, and creating more concrete standards for alternative fuel certification.
Demand for air transportation, both for passenger and cargo service, has been increasing and airports are expanding to accommodate it. This growth is accompanied by an increase of emissions from aircraft, ground services equipment and vehicle traffic on and near airports. All this activity impacts the local air quality around airports and human health, and contributes to global climate change.
To help the industry comprehend and address concerns about emissions, ASCENT researchers are analyzing data and improving models to better understand the effect of aircraft emissions, creating and refining analysis techniques on airport–specific and global scales, and assessing how policy changes could affect emissions.
The growth in demand for passenger and cargo air transportation has pushed operators to increase the number and frequency of their scheduled flights. The expansion in operations and the changes to the airspace aimed at accommodating it have resulted in renewed public concern.
ASCENT researchers are working to fully understand community noise impacts of aviation including how aircraft noise affects human health and wellbeing and how elements such as motion and atmospheric parameters affect noise. They are also creating tools for analyzing aircraft noise, informing policies related to noise, and conducting outreach and education about aircraft noise reduction efforts.
Aviation operations at an airport can affect local communities in ways that are dependent on how and where aircraft are flown. The nature and scale of these effects depends on a multitude of related factors such as an aircraft flight path on approach to and departure from the airport, the flight speed and cruise altitude, and also the path the aircraft follows while on the ground. Aviation operations can be optimized to reduce the amount of noise and emissions generated by these operations while still maintaining the efficiency of the airport system.
ASCENT research is focusing on airport surface movement, cruise altitude and speed optimization, as well as modeling rotorcraft noise abatement operating conditions and developing rotorcraft noise abatement procedures.
The aviation system operation involves the complex interactions between many different components and understanding how to optimize its activities requires advanced modeling tools. The Federal Aviation Administration suite of tools has been developed to provide the ability to characterize and quantify the interdependences of aviation-related noise and emissions, impacts on health and welfare, and industry and consumer costs under different policy, technology, operational and market scenarios.
The ASCENT researchers are further developing and expanding the capabilities of these tools in a variety of ways ranging from improving the way basic physical properties are represented and modeled to how new technology will enter the fleet and what its benefits will be.