Airport Technology Research Plan

FAA continuously evaluates the needs and challenges of our nation’s airports and the national airspace system. The FAA Airport Technology Research & Development Branch (ATR) research plans provide an overview of the various program areas for pavement and safety research. Since the last major update of the research plans, innovative practices and technologies have given rise to new research focused on:



  •  Safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and other emerging entrants into the national airspace
  •  Using eco-friendly foam to put out aircraft fires
  •  Exploring the use of autonomous aviation vehicles and services at airport, leading to smart airport concepts
  •  Building resilient airport infrastructure systems that can withstand climate change and severe weather
  •  Researching sustainable solutions for airports



By evaluating new methods and technologies, research conducted by ATR supports the FAA’s mission to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. ATR research informs the policies, standards, and regulatory guidance needed to meet the evolving demands of industry, not only in the United States, but around the world.



2030 Research Plan Cover





Through active airport pavement research, FAA will continue to provide the guidance required to ensure longer lasting pavements that can carry the aircraft traffic of today and tomorrow safely and efficiently with minimum rehabilitation and reconstruction over the pavement design life. ATR’s Airport Pavement Research & Development Section maintains a rolling 10-year plan that identifies and responds to the challenges facing the FAA, commercial, state and regional airport systems, airport operators, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airport consultants and contractors.


The research plan encompasses four focus areas, which are directly related to the strategic plans of the FAA Office of Airport Safety and Standards and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Focus areas address distinct issues and concerns of the airfield pavement stakeholders at large and support the mission of the ATR and the Office of Airports.

2030 Research Plan Focus Areas

1.   Pavement Design: continue work on doubling airport pavement life from its current requirement of a 20-year design life.



2.   Pavement Materials: promote the use of sustainable, environmentally friendly pavement materials, and improve the pavement design model to better relate to in-service pavement performance.



3.   Pavement Evaluations: decrease transportation-related serious injuries and fatalities by updating the guidance and software related to minimizing Foreign Object Debris (FOD), decreasing pavement roughness, improving skid resistance, and hydroplaning, and evaluating pavement failure using Nondestructive Testing (NDT).



4.   Special Projects include:


 a. Completing the evaluation of heated pavement systems for winter operations to improve safety.

 b.  Evaluating the use of geosynthetics within the pavement structure to meet industry demands for standards to optimize pavement thickness design and to allow the use of more environmentally friendly materials.


 c.  Developing the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for airfield pavements, which is an approach for quantifying environmental impacts, energy use, and finite resource depletion over the life cycle (from cradle to grave).








Download the full FAA Pavement 2030 Research Plan. A consolidated version of the plan can also be downloaded here.


ATR is a leader in airport safety research with the expertise and resources to respond to evolving safety needs. ATR’s Safety Research & Development Portfolio is designed to meet the current needs of airports, as well as support the safe integration of U.S.-based innovation and emerging technologies. Our dynamic safety research plan aligns with the FAA’s Strategic Outlook for Research and specific research requests based on operational demands. This approach ensures that ATR can respond quickly to guarantee that our airports remain the safest and most efficient in the world.