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Air Navigation and Surveillance

A view from an airplane cockpit
Simulation screen showing various flights for transportation and passengers (Adobe Stock image/teerapon)

About Us

The U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s Air Navigation and Surveillance Division develops and evaluates systems and procedures for air traffic management to improve the safety, security, and effectiveness of aviation operations.

We perform analyses and conduct tests to determine the technical feasibility, operational applicability, and cost-effectiveness of sensors and systems.

Our team develops and evaluates new navigation and surveillance system electronics installed on the ground, in vehicles, and in space. Our team supports FAA’s efforts to implement large-scale systems.

We also support FAA, NASA, DOD, and other federal partners’ efforts to safely, efficiently, and sustainably bring unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace.

Our Capabilities

Safety and Security Assessments

  • Develop aircraft/vehicle surveillance systems, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), which provides surveillance technology for tracking aircraft
  • Develop concept of operation and conducts impact assessments
  • Build and support FAA’s Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE X) program, a surveillance system that aims to reduce potential runway conflicts using radar, multilateration, and satellite technology that allows air traffic controllers to track surface movement of aircraft and vehicles
  • Plan and execute ground-based sense-and-avoid systems for DOD that provide government UAS operators with real-time displays of aircraft in nearby airspace

Applied Data Science

  • Conduct tests to analyze the technical feasibility, operational applicability, and cost effectiveness of aircraft sensors and systems
  • Reduce manual processes to enable ocean traffic controllers to safely and efficiently manage traffic over long oceanic routes with programs like FAA’s Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures (ATOP) program
  • Create modeling and fast-time simulation systems related to UAS integration for NASA

Engineering and Technology Deployment to Enhance Transportation

  • Analyze radio-wave propagation and interference/jamming
  • Support FAA’s Drone Detection Pathfinder Initiative, which focuses on visual line-of-sight operations

Systems and Infrastructure Modernization and Optimization

  • Provide aviation system engineering to develop systems for aircraft navigation/landing and frequency management standards
  • Replace voice communication with digital communications between the cockpit and air traffic controller to help airlines stay on schedule, help deliver packages on time, and help passengers get off the tarmac, into the air, and to their destinations more quickly, supporting programs like FAA’s Data Communications (Data Comm) program
  • Enable increased collaboration and seamless data sharing between air traffic control centers, by providing support to programs like FAA’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program

Project Management and Mission Support

  • Provide Project Management Institute (PMI)-certified program management
  • Offer federal contracting expertise: Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) on large and small air traffic system development efforts

Meet Our Team

View selected staff biographies.

David LeCraw

Chief, Air Navigation and Surveillance

David LeCraw