Civil aviation companies are studying frontiers that were once reserved for science fiction, from flying taxis to hypersonic and suborbital flights. The U.S. government is also taking part by adopting next-generation technologies for air traffic control and testing emerging technologies, like low-boom supersonic aircraft. But realizing the next wave of aviation innovation will require both the public and private sector to work together to address common challenges and answer pressing questions. What technological and regulatory barriers stand in the way of supersonic flight? How can the federal government support additional aviation innovation? How can regulators test and integrate new technologies while ensuring public safety?
On December 3, ITIF hosted an expert panel discussion on the future of the U.S. aerospace industry, new aviation technologies, and the policies necessary to protect the safety of the national airspace system while ensuring innovation in aerospace continues apace.
Alan McQuinn, Senior Policy Analyst at ITIF, opened the event. He explained that airplanes today aren’t that different from airplanes a few decades ago, and he noted that there is great opportunity for innovation in air travel.
Alan asked Greg Bowles, Vice President of Global Innovation & Policy at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, about how the private sector is attempting to innovate in air travel. Greg stated that automation creates a significant opportunity for innovation in air travel. Greg added that industry and regulators are working well together, and he specifically pointed out that the FAA is working well with companies.
Alan then asked Eli Dourado, Head of Global Policy and Communications at Boom Supersonic, about the state of the supersonic flight industry. Eli stated that the supersonic industry is making great gains in the market place, but it faces heavy noise regulations as well as a lack of public understanding of the industry. He is hopeful that in time the industry will see an increase in funding and understanding. Eli added that he would like to see an increase in speed limits for commercial flights to account for a sonic boom standard.
Alan also asked Eli about how the recent FAA bill affects supersonic flights. Eli stated that the bill directed the FAA to develop standards for a supersonic flight, directed the FAA to take an international leadership position, and instructed the FAA to consider every two years whether to repeal the noise regulation.
Alan then asked Jay Dryer, Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Programs at the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, about NASA’s strategy for innovating air flight. Jay stated that NASA has six areas it’s looking to innovate in: air traffic control, supersonic commercial flight, more efficient commercial flight travel, alternative propulsion power, in-time system wide safety notification, and autonomous air vehicles. Jay also stated that NASA is a data driven organization, and that they are looking at working with the FAA to gather data on supersonic flight to improve regulations.
Alan then asked Jenny Rosenberg, Founder at JTR Strategies, about how the Department of Transportation views new air tech. From Jenny’s perspective as former staff, the Department takes this new industry tech very seriously, and they are focused on improving the quality of air travel for both industry and the consumer. Alan also asked Jenny about the effect of FAA regulations on drone hobbyists. Jenny stated that the recent FAA bill had a carve out for the hobbyists, and the bill showed provided a policy path forward.