Volume 01 | Issue 05 | July 06, 2020
Aerospace IoT, Retaskable CubeSats & FAA's UAM ConOps

We’re still finalizing our list of the biggest trends to watch in aerospace and preparing to launch that broader trend-focused coverage model. Starting next week, we’ll pick three trends to provide comprehensive updates on per issue of Future of Aerospace.

In the meantime, we’ve got three deep dives into specifics:

· Insights from a Microsoft executive on how Azure is building a global Internet-of-Things platform with countless applications in aerospace, including satellite connectivity.

· A run-down of the FAA’s first ConOps for urban air mobility — how the agency envisions air taxi operations evolving past the constraints of the current system.

· And an interesting new satellite constellation the U.S. Air Force will use that’s reconfigurable, able to be used for imagery and/or communications based on need.

Hope you enjoy the issue, and have a great week.

— The Future of Aerospace Team
Azure Global Shows Potential to Transform Aerospace IoT Connectivity
Microsoft’s Azure Global is a growing super-computing network of data centers, integrated cloud computing services and algorithms that has the potential to transform the way Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity is managed, processed and routed by the aerospace industry, according to a keynote speech the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Bill Chappell gave remotely during the recent Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats virtual event series.

The “world computer,” as Chappell calls it, includes more than 160 physical data centers, organized into regions where Microsoft has geographically located “latency defined perimeters.”
  • Azure is also powered by more than 100,000 miles of fiber optic and sub-sea scale cabling and 150 edge locations on the ground that currently serve more than 20 million companies globally.

  • Within these regions, customers have service level agreements to run their individual IT systems, services and applications on Azure’s virtual machines, edge computing, deep learning algorithms and other products that enable digital transformation.

  • Users are onboarded to the Azure network through service level agreements and “ExpressRoutes” that enable their own dedicated private connection to the Azure cloud along with the option to add a suite of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms offered by Microsoft.
Microsoft recently added a satellite connectivity component to Azure. Through agreements with satellite providers including Intelsat, SES and Viasat, Azure end users can use their satellite-to-cloud connectivity offering.

In collaboration with Ball Aerospace, the Department of Defense (DoD) and a low earth orbit satellite connectivity service provider, earlier this year, Microsoft successfully demonstrated a flight test using the satellite-to-cloud concept on an aircraft.

“Through a LEO network with one of our partners, we worked with Ball Aerospace antennas, up through the LEO layer, back down and into our cloud and maintained connectivity,” Chappell said. “What was interesting, we brought a suite of AI capabilities onboard a plane that hadn’t been touched since the 1980s in terms of modernization, and now you have this portal into hundreds of cloud services. We’re very excited to be able to do this early demonstration to have shown what an expanded cloud presence is and how it would impact the connectivity and connected aircraft community.”

The Azure CTO also sees potential for the use of the world computer’s algorithms to design wireless signals, among other growing telecommunications use cases.

Read more on Azure’s applications for aerospace, exclusive to Future of Aerospace.
The ‘Chameleon Constellation’ of AI-Enabled CubeSats
Texas-based Hypergiant Industries is working with the U.S. Air Force to develop a constellation of 24 to 36 artificial intelligence-enabled cube satellites able to be re-tasked for various national security and other missions within minutes.

Hypergiant CEO Ben Lamm explains some use cases:
  • “…being able to use a constellation of satellites that can work together to run machine learning models in space on the space-derived data that other satellites provide to the constellation.”

  • “… the constellation will be real-time re-tasked for other use cases such as imaging or communications. Think of it as a group of satellites that work together and can change their function based on the need from the ground. The satellites could be quickly updated and reconfigured while in orbit.”
On June 30, Hypergiant announced the roll-out of the prototype of the company's first node in the Chameleon Constellation, which is to use the Air Force Platform One system as the foundation for the constellation's architecture. The satellites are designed to be 6U in dimensions and will operate in low-earth orbit.

Air Force Maj. Rob Slaughter, the director of Platform One, said in the Hypergiant statement that "in order for the U.S. to remain competitive and protect the systems that run the lives of everyday Americans, we created a solution that allows for continuous software delivery in space."

Read more on the Chameleon Constellation, exclusive to Future of Aerospace and Defense Daily.
Breaking Down the FAA’s V1.0 ConOps for Urban Air Mobility
The FAA’s NextGen office recently published its V1.0 Concept of Operations for urban air mobility, developed in collaboration with NASA and industry.

This document lays the foundation for how UAM operations — passenger and cargo air taxis — will operate within the NAS … and, largely, without the involvement of air traffic controllers (ATC).

In the coming weeks, we’ll get a better sense of industry reaction to the document and direction, but for now, here are some key points:
  • UAM operations will begin like normal helicopter operations, using ATC, until tempo exceeds ATC’s capacity. At that point, the FAA will define “UAM Corridors” which will have operational requirements and restrictions different from the rest of the airspace. In order to operate within a UAM Corridor, an aircraft will have to meet these requirements. They can be different from Corridor to Corridor, but operations will be unaffected by airspace class surrounding them.

  • Within these Corridors, ATC will not provide tactical separation; instead, operators, pilots-in-command and service providers will collaboratively ensure safe operations via data-sharing, declaration of intent, strategic and tactical separation, etc.

    ATC will, however, determine open/closed availability of Corridors, provide advisories regarding UAM operations to other aircraft “on a workload permitting basis,” and respond to off-nominal situations.

  • As the tempo of operations increases and capabilities improve, Corridors will be able to increase their capacity by creating ‘tracks’ at different altitudes, expanding their three-dimensional space, or increasing performance requirements in order to reduce separation minima within the Corridor.

  • Like with UTM, FAA is delegating the vast majority of responsibility for rulemaking, system creation and management to industry, through “community-based rulemaking” and other processes. With oversight, of course.

    From the document, referring to the image included above: “The vertical dot-dashed line in Figure 5.1 represents the demarcation between the FAA and industry responsibilities for the infrastructure, services, and entities that interact as part of UAM.”
This ConOps is not final rulemaking, all of it is subject to change, and it assumes a pilot-in-command — not addressing the potential operational/communications challenges and opportunities of autonomous flight.

But the FAA’s “evolutionary” approach to UAM integration is guided by overarching principles and assumptions that are unlikely to change, such as that “any evolution of the regulatory environment will always maintain safety of the NAS,” and “operators cannot optimize their own operations at the expense of sub-optimizing the environment as a whole.”
Thank you for reading the Future of Aerospace, brought to you by Avionics International and Defense Daily.
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