Aeronautics Research

USRA works closely with NASA, universities and industry developing advanced aeronautical technology concepts. 

Current Highlights
image of helicopter in flight

Helping Pilots “See” Through the Storm

Visual cues that help pilots see during takeoff and landing are challenged during stormy or dusty conditions. USRA is developing technology that helps pilots see through storms.

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Helicopters often provide crucial access to tough, remote locations, and pilots currently take-off and land safely using visual cues of the terrain around them. Such procedures are challenged when the terrain is obscured by a storm, or sand and dust kicked up by the helicopter rotor.

USRA scientists and engineers are helping design and test new human-machine interfaces for both helicopters and unmanned aerial system ground stations to provide greatly improved performance and safety in these degraded visual environments. Recent test flights of an integrated cueing environment providing landing guidance symbology and an associated audio cueing system showed significant improvement in landing performance accuracy and safety through greater crew situational awareness. The tests were conducted on the JUH-60A RASCAL and EH-60L Black Hawk research helicopters in support of the Army Degraded Visual Environment Mitigation (DVE-M) Program as part of USRA’s NASA Academic Mission Services contract with NASA providing support to the U.S. Army Aviation Development Directorate at Moffett Field, California.

chart of data

Decreasing the Impact of Bad Weather on the Travelling Public

A frequent issue for on-time arrivals in airline travel occurs due to a long reroutes around storm systems. Such issues can result in significant numbers of travelers missing a connecting flight and arriving late at their final destinations. Currently, air traffic controllers rely on pre-planned large route deviations to ensure safe flight around bad weather, but these often add significantly more delay.

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USRA scientists and engineers have helped develop and demonstrate optimization decision support tools (DST) for En Route air traffic controllers that automatically generate improved routing around bad weather. Such DST provide significantly shorter routes with corresponding savings in time and fuel. This system was developed under the Airspace Technology Demonstration 3 project on USRA’s NAMS contract at NASA Ames Research Center. A variation of this system has been successfully used by American Airlines, where it presented potential savings of over 1000 minutes nationwide in weather-induced re-routes over one month.

This system will help the FAA and industry to improve the air travel experience and reduce the environmental impact of aviation.

image of US map with flight paths illuminated

Flight Hardware Development & Instrumentation

USRA scientists play key roles in the development for orbital and sub-orbital missions, deep space systems, and aircraft and high altitude platforms to support research.

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USRA scientists have end-to-end expertise in the design, development, and deployment of flight hardware, sensors, and instrumentation. USRA scientists play key roles in the development of instruments for orbital and sub-orbital missions, deep-space systems, and aircraft and high-altitude platforms. This technology development supports applications in Earth science, astronomy, and astrophysics areas of research.

Meet Our Experts
USRA Programs in Aeronautics Research
NASA Academic Mission Services (NAMS) center


USRA leads the NASA Academic Mission Services (NAMS) contract at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. NAMS provides Ames with capabilities ranging from fundamental research and development through field-test deployments and operational science missions. USRA and our teammates deliver a university-based program and project support for science and engineering teams across research mission directorates at Ames.