Kansas Department of Transportation officials selected our team to develop the Kansas Airspace Awareness Tool (KAAT), an innovative planning tool using technology to transform the once imaginary surfaces into an easy-to-understand, visual 3-D representation of local airspace. Developed on the Google Earth platform, KAAT allows users to interactively evaluate proposed structures and their potential impact on existing airspace.
The airspace surfaces were developed according to the geometric descriptions outlined in FAR Part 77 - Objects Affecting Navigable Airspace. These surfaces may vary, depending on the type of instrument approach or the visibility minimums available at the airport. KAAT removes the guesswork and allows users to easily perform preliminary evaluations with immediate results. Furthermore, local governments use KAAT to clearly define and understand the boundaries of their airspace to facilitate public education and create local height and hazard regulations to protect the airport.
The project won a 2012 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) National Honor Award for Engineering Excellence. Read more about it in BenchMark or our Aviation Special Report.
The nation’s airspace consists of a complex network of imaginary 3-D surfaces established to provide a safe clearance between solid objects and aircraft. These complex imaginary surfaces are difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. However, the safe and efficient operation of our nation’s airports relies on the protection of these airspace surfaces. Given the continued advances in technology and emphasis towards development of alternative energy sources, structures such as wind turbines are inadvertently placed in locations that can negatively impact these airspace surfaces.
Although the FAA evaluates the placement of all structures, it has limited ability to restrict land use and often lacks critical information regarding local conditions. Many local governments either do not understand the impact on their airport or lack access to the resources necessary to develop an effective response to the proposed development in a timely manner. This ongoing challenge led the Kansas Department of Transportation, Aviation Division, to seek the development of a practical interactive planning tool that provides immediate feedback regarding proposed structures.