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NASA Gives Air Safety Technology to Alaska


Between the vast expanses on land, extreme weather and mountainous terrains Alaska pilots are often disconnected from vital navigation aids and communication.  NASA delivered new technology to Alaska that could help pilots flying over the vast wilderness.

The technology is a satellite-based communication method where regional data is sent only to that specific region.  The concepts and data are available as an open-source project for further development.

Manager of NextGen Concepts and Technology Development  Dr. Parimal Kopardekar says with many Alaskan communities only accessible by airplane, flight technologies are vital to safety.

“They’re having a lot of accidents and incidents in Alaska because of the airspace, the complexity of the mountain passes and bas weather situations.”

This NextGen technology is part of the Terrain and Atmospheric Information for General Aviation program.  Kopardekar says the system is not perfected yet.  He says NASA did not give Alaska the entire NextGen system, but rather developed prototype aspects made for the state. The iPad application that allows the viewer to see the location of the aircraft and where it’s going as well as satellite weather information is included in the NextGen package the state was granted.

Another technology included is in the regional data communication program.

“So it’s important to target the airspace and operations and helicopters that are in that airspace and only provide it to those aircraft not the whole state because it’s too expensive to send information to every plane.”

The project is the result of a joint effort between the NASA Ames Research Center and the State of Alaska. The next step in development of the TAIGA concept is for the State of Alaska to take the NASA concept and develop it into an app that meets the specific needs of Alaskan pilots.