NextGen Architecture

The FAA, in conjunction with the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), is in the process of planning and implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen is a wide-ranging modernization program targeted at transforming the way the National Airspace System (NAS) is managed, thereby increasing the capacity of the system to meet the growing demand. A key aspect of NextGen is the transition to a net-centric model for transferring information of all types. This has strong parallels with the DoD’s Global Information Grid (GIG), and in fact, many of the system usage scenarios require a significant level of data sharing between the DoD, NWS, DHS, FAA, and numerous other agencies.


The transformation to NextGen involves moving away from systems interacting in a point-to-point manner to a system based on the idea of a shared information bus. The actual implementation is based on the principle of a service-oriented architecture (SOA), leveraging much of the infrastructure being developed for and used by the commercial Internet. In the SOA model, a set of loosely coupled services that interact using standardized data models provide the basic building blocks for a modular, composable system that can be adapted over time to meet changing requirements.

Three-Tiered Service-Oriented Architecture

The FAA's NextGen service-oriented architecture has three primary tiers. At the lowest level, a set of core services provides functionality that is shared by all services in the network, such as security and basic messaging capabilities. In the next tier, services that are common to specific communities of interest (COIs) exist, providing, for example, higher-level building blocks for the weather community. In the highest tier exist those services that are more application-specific. These tend to be highly specialized services that provide a customized end product for a small set of end users.

NextGen ArchitectureResearch and development in each of these service tiers is a collective effort between the FAA, Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC's), academia, and industry. As an FFRDC, MIT Lincoln Laboratory is conducting R&D in two primary areas. In the context of the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) program, the Laboratory has been a strong contributor to the initial SWIM prototyping efforts, and is helping to refine and test the emerging core service capabilities. With respect to the second tier of services, the Laboratory is participating in the NextGen Network-Enabled Weather (NNEW) program. In this program, the Laboratory, in conjunction with other weather laboratories, NWS, and the DoD, is helping to develop many of the key services that will be used to disseminate and provide weather information of all types to FAA weather consumers.

Current Work in NextGen Development

Efforts in 2007 and 2008 are focused on developing and demonstrating the core weather dissemination architecture. Services based on standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the DoD are being leveraged in the pursuit of this work. Standards from the OGC include the Web Coverage Service for dissemination of large gridded data sets, and the Web Feature Service, for dissemination of non-gridded data. The primary DoD standards of interest to the FAA weather community are those centered around the Joint METOC Broker Language (JMBL), developed by the Air Force and Navy and providing similar functionality to the OGC services. It is expected that, over time, standards from both of these organizations will prove to be important to the overall capabilities and interoperability of the system both here and abroad.

NextGen Future

Future efforts will focus on further improving the composibility and usability of the system by leveraging technologies associated with the Semantic Web, including OWL-based ontologies for categorization of sensors and data, and high-level, ontology-aware query languages for information discovery. These more advanced capabilities are expected to play a key role with respect to the overall system flexibility and adaptability envisioned by future, highly integrated, NextGen applications.

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