The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Airspace Systems Program has developed air traffic management software that could make flights more efficient. Called ASTAR, for Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes, the software assists pilots with precise spacing of planes by delivering specific speed information and guidance. Pilots will be able to take a "follow the leader" approach to their destination airport, which would help minimize deviations in their flight path and limit commercial flight delays.
NASA partnered with Boeing to conduct flight tests of the software on the company's ecoDemonstrator 787 Test Airplane. "NASA has tested ASTAR in laboratory simulations, but this flight test on board the ecoDemonstrator 787 gave us the chance to see how well it works in a real-life flight environment," says NASA's Will Johnson. NASA will use the findings of the test flight to improve the software and then develop flight hardware with plans to test it further and eventually certify it for use.
"ASTAR represents the first of several inventive technologies NASA's aeronautical innovators are working on that will be tested with the help of the ecoDemonstrator test airplanes," says NASA's Jaiwon Shin.
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