Automated Air Traffic Control Communication Technology Enhancement

Navy SBIR 22.1 - Topic N221-024
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Opens: January 12, 2022 - Closes: February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est)

N221-024 TITLE: Automated Air Traffic Control Communication Technology Enhancement

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML);Autonomy;General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human Systems

OBJECTIVE: Provide an intelligent, realistic, and autonomous communications software tool intended to provide relevant radio and chat information exchanges within training systems and feedback to improve the fidelity and quality of communication-based training.

DESCRIPTION: The current Air Traffic Control (ATC) operational environment requires an operator to listen and filter through a large number of communications (voice and/or text) in order to complete their objectives. During training, the quality of the "non-target" communications, or "noise" is lacking, or does not exist, due to technological or instructor workload limitations. Calls that are replayed on a loop can alert the student to the normal pattern and allow them to pick out the target communications more easily than they would in an operational environment. This limitation decreases the training fidelity of the environment and can cause a lack of trainee skill.

This SBIR topic seeks to provide a software solution for enhancing communications-based training systems for the ATC community and others through development of a capability to deliver intelligent, autonomous, and realistic background calls and text chat (i.e., not scripted) to increase training fidelity. This communication-based training solution must allow students to interact with relevant entities (e.g., aircraft, personnel within tower, personnel of adjacent airspace towers, command and control agencies) via voice and text, and be provided responses (for target communication responses, as well as nontarget). The system should also provide diagnostic feedback to the student after the exercise—specifically targeted at whether or not the student is communicating with the correct entities or "target" communications—and whether or not the content of their messages is appropriate for the situation. Instructors must be able to modify the environment of the scenarios, to include certain amounts and types of aircraft (and other calls) in order to simulate different mission sets, and difficulty levels.

As part of this SBIR effort, development and demonstration of hardware and/or software technology prototype is desired that provides this capability stated above. The hardware and software must meet the DoD system accreditation and certification requirements to support processing approvals for use through the policy cited in Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 8510.01, Risk Management Framework (RMF) for DoD Information Technology (IT) [Ref 1], and comply with appropriate DoDI 8500.01, Cybersecurity [Ref 2]. This solution should require minimal operator guidance to modify and maintain.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Demonstrate feasibility of an autonomous voice- and text-based communications capability to support signal-to-noise ratio in training scenarios. The early system should demonstrate an initial autonomous capability to provide audio and text during training, with some type of performance feedback to users, such as text or graphics-based information on user performance. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and prototype the proposed solution to integrate into a sample training environment. The prototype capability should be able to provide realistic, autonomous voice- and text-based communications from various types of aircraft for the appropriate set of training scenarios, and provide feedback to students.

Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in Description paragraph.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Obtain management framework certification for an authority to operate within operational/training systems. Finalize, refine, and integrate the solution within the training system environment. Transition the technology to a Naval Air Station via a Program Office. This solution can be used in the defense industry as a framework to provide higher fidelity settings for communications-based training.

Commercial industries that could benefit from this type of training system include commercial aviation and air traffic control, in similar ways to how the technology would benefit the listed platforms. Outside of air traffic control, 911 operators and first responder training could benefit from this type of communications-based training system. Any job that filters through a large amount of voice and text communications (e.g., 911 dispatcher) could be trained using such a solution.

REFERENCES:

  1. Department of Defense. (2020, December 29). DoDI 8510.01: Risk Management Framework (RMF) for DoD Information Technology (IT), Incorporating Change 3. Department of Defense. https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/851001p.pdf?ver=qEE2HGN_HE4Blu7161t1TQ%3D%3D.
  2. Department of Defense. (2019, October 7). DoDI 8500.01, Incorporating Change 1: Cybersecurity. Department of Defense. https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/850001_2014.pdf.
  3. Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. (n.d.). https://www.dcsa.mil/.
  4. Department of Defense. (2006, February 28). DoD 5220.22-M National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (Incorporating Change 2, May 18, 2016). Department of Defense. https://www.esd.whs.mil/portals/54/documents/dd/issuances/dodm/522022m.pdf.

KEYWORDS: Air Traffic Control; Training System; Communications-based Training; Training Fidelity; Diagnostic Feedback; Instructor Workload

** TOPIC NOTICE **

The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/ for any updates.

The DoD issued its 22.1 SBIR BAA pre-release on December 1, 2021, which opens to receive proposals on January 12, 2022, and closes February 10, 2022 (12:00pm est).

Direct Contact with Topic Authors: During the pre-release period (December 1, 2021 thru January 11, 2022) proposing firms have an opportunity to directly contact the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the specific BAA topic. Once DoD begins accepting proposals on January 12, 2022 no further direct contact between proposers and topic authors is allowed unless the Topic Author is responding to a question submitted during the Pre-release period.

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