The US FAA has awarded three separate contracts worth $4.4 billion over 10 years to support demonstration of Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic control procedures in real time within the current air traffic system.
Boeing, General Dynamics and ITT secured the contracts, which are part of the agency's "System Engineering (SE2020)" scheme.
FAA expects to award two additional contracts under SE2020, which the agency says has "a ceiling of $7 billion".
Under the three contract awards announced today, the three companies plan to conduct large-scale demonstrations, including the use of aircraft as flying laboratories, to determine how NextGen procedures and concepts could be used in the current system.
FAA is working with the companies to demonstrate new procedures in four dimensions, adding the time element to the current three dimension profile of latitude, longitude and altitude. The fourth dimension of time supplements aircraft positioning information supplied to pilots and controllers.
Adding the fourth dimension allows an aircraft to fly between two points more directly, says FAA, while accounting for conditions such as heavy traffic and bad weather.
Boeing, General Dynamics and ITT also plan to roll-out modernised weather services. The FAA explains NextGen weather imaging allows both pilots and controllers to view bad weather stratified by different altitudes, which allows for a more detailed and accurate picture of weather conditions.
In April FAA awarded CSSI a $280 million contract under the SE2020 programme. The scheme was designed to encourage participation of small businesses, says the agency.
Of the subcontractors teaming with Boeing, General Dynamics and ITT, 12 are small businesses, six are owned by women and two are owned by disabled veterans, says FAA.