Aircraft are no longer the most intelligent vehicles on an airport – Here comes NAVYA!

On 19/02/2015, in The future is now, by steve

When we say “airport” the picture that most easily comes into one’s mind is of aircraft moving around or waiting parked at the gate. A poor second is the masses of people milling around in the terminal, part of the organized chaos designed to ensure that in the end each and every one of them ends up in his or her assigned seat aboard the aircraft bound for his or her destination.


Looking more closely one will of course notice that there are lots of vehicles of various sizes also moving about, both in- and outside the terminal and also on the aprons where aircraft are being turned around for their next flight. They move people, bags, catering, supplies and what have you. Inside the terminal smaller trolleys transport disabled passengers. What they all have in common is that the average trip length is rather limited and that the trips they make are repetitive. Just think of the hotel and car rental shuttles. Drive along all the terminals, plod over to the rental company lot and then start the whole thing again.

The bigger vehicles are usually equipped with radios and their drivers are in contact with the respective dispatchers. But when there is suddenly a peak in demand and an extra bus for the car rental folks would be really nice, it us usually not available because even if there is a reserve bus somewhere, there is probably no spare driver to take it into the fray.

The small electric trolleys used inside the terminal are even more of a problem. Most of the time they are parked not where they are needed and when they are needed, someone has to walk over to them and take them on a long trek to an arrival gate and then drive back again to the parking area, never mind that in 10 minutes it will be needed at the same far away gate once again.

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Trajectory based operations… for passengers in the terminal and beyond

On 18/02/2015, in CDM, by steve

Not long ago we were in the middle of a brainstorming session at the HQ of a partner company and in the middle of our discussions suddenly a picture popped into my mind. It was so outlandish that at first I tried to push it away and focus on the issues at hand. But the idea refused to go away. In fact it was clamoring for attention. It was all about symmetry.

When you look at an airport, one way to picture it is that it is in the middle, the focal point of a huge number of aircraft milling around, all determined to land while on the side it is the focus of a huge number of passengers milling around, determined to find their way to their respective aircraft.

In air traffic management we are moving away from the old concept of managing individual aircraft by looking at current position plus +/- 20 minutes to what is called TBO, trajectory based operations. You can read more about TBO in my articles here and here. I will explain a few things below but coming back to the passenger terminal, would it be possible to use the methods and experience gained with TBO also for managing the flow of passengers? By considering each and every one of them being on a trajectory that represents the best outcome for the passenger, the airport and the airline concerned and interceding whenever there is a deviation from this optimal trajectory. Just like we do with aircraft.

Sounds crazy? Well, bear with me a little longer before passing judgment.

First of all let’s agree on a definition of the word “trajectory”. For the purposes of this article, I will suggest that we say a trajectory is the path in the air or on the ground along which an object passes or planned to pass. Obviously, this object can be an aircraft… or a passenger. The trajectory is hence defined in 4 dimensions. We have the 3 spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension is time. There is also a fifth dimension, the economic value of the trajectory to the airline. This is a virtual dimension but its value is important in decision making (which flight to delay for example).

Where does the aircraft trajectory commence?

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Digital Avionics Systems Conference, Prague, 2015 September 13-17

On 16/02/2015, in Events, by steve

There is a wide choice of conferences in the aviation field to chose from if you have the time (and budget) to attend some of them. They all provide excellent networking opportunities and of course the content is also of interest. However, if I had to chose just one conference, the winner would be, by a wide margin, the Digital Avionics Systems Conference or DASC. Few events combine such a wealth of information with such a great lineup of experts to meet.


In 2015 the 34th DASC will be held in Prague, Czech Republic and so it is easy to reach for Europeans even on a low travel budget. I would really recommend that you participate. What is more, there is still time to submit a paper, so if you have something to share with the wider aviation community, here is your chance!

New avionics systems in the area of Communication, Navigation and Surveillance serve as a key enabler for future Air Traffic Management. To ensure that airlines equip in time, mandates for new and existing aircraft have been proposed. This year, the impact of global mandates on avionics research and development has been chosen as the conference theme. Both the Plenary and Technical Sessions will be addressing the theme and will include many people from around the world discussing how their countries and organizations are responding to the mandates.

A special track will focus on whether there is a need for mandates that address cyber-related vulnerabilities in the CNS infrastructure. In this context, papers are being sought that address security threats and vulnerabilities of communication and navigation systems in terms of information integrity, their potential impact on safety, human factors aspects related to the detection of sudden inconsistencies in the available information, and technical mitigations such as improvements in the area of information authentication.

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Regulations will facilitate integration of small UAS into U.S. aviation system

On 15/02/2015, in UAS, by steve

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.


The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.

The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at “innovation zones.”

The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found here. Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence.  These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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Between a rock and a very hard place – where is air traffic management going?

On 12/02/2015, in ATC world, by steve

automatedHungary’s decision to get rid of all fixed routes in the Budapest FIR and so become the first place in Europe with true free-route operations signifies something that few people appreciate for the huge impact it will have once others also follow suit. The ability to fly any track in the en-route phase that is the shortest distance between the departure and destination aerodromes will save the airspace users billions and is something the airspace users have been asking for, for decades. I am sure many a retired air traffic controller will now scratch their heads and wonder: how are they going to manage all those aircraft without the routes acting as a reference for planning.

The answer of course is TBO, or trajectory based operations, where the controller is looking at the trajectories (eventually end to end) rather than individual aircraft and 20 minutes into the future… Of course there are only so many aircraft a controller can handle at the same time and a similar limit to how many controllers you can assign to work in a given volume of airspace.

If growing demand is to be accommodated, automating some tasks becomes inevitable.

Make no mistake, the tools and procedures currently being fielded in leaps and bounds by NextGen in the US and Sesar in Europe are little more than baby steps towards what we will need in the future.

One of the big problems with current automation concepts is that we look at the total ATM operation and then automate those elements which can be automated relatively easily and which is acceptable to the human controller. But the basic paradigms of managing traffic and providing separation hardly change at all. This approach will quickly lead to a wall which we cannot go around or jump over because of the legacy relationship between controller and automation. The current concepts are all limited by the requirement for the human to be able to take over if the system fails.

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Tiny airspace, huge step forward

On 10/02/2015, in ATC world, by steve

HungaroControl is first in Europe to introduce the most effective version of Free Route operations. HUFRA can save airlines 3 million dollars in fuel costs per year.

Since 5 February 2015, HungaroControl is the first ANSP in Europe to have abolished the entire fixed route network in the Budapest FIR, thus enabling aircraft to use the airspace freely, without any restrictions. The significance of the new traffic management concept (Hungarian Free Route Airspace, HUFRA) is that aircraft can take the shortest possible flight path between the entry and exit points in Hungary’s airspace. According to experts, this solution suggests potential yearly savings of 1.5 million kilometres by aircraft flying over Hungary. As a result, airlines may save nearly $3 million worth of fuel per year, which may also lead to a reduction of CO2 emissions by more than 16 million kilograms.

Pursuant to Regulation No. 716/2014 of the European Commission it will be mandatory for air navigation organizations to introduce Free Route airspace, above 9000 meters across the whole of Europe by 1 January 2022. The Hungarian air navigation service provider HungaroControl has met these provisions well before the deadline and implemented Free Route Airspace without any time or space limitations, so that aircraft can make the fullest use of this service in the Hungarian airspace.


With the application of HUFRA, airplanes can cover the distance between their entry and exits points in the Hungarian airspace flying the shortest possible track, without inserting any unnecessary navigation points. This way airlines can plan and implement their flights in the Hungarian airspace in the most economical and environmentally friendly way. Thanks to this concept, the routes of flights through Hungary may be reduced by almost 1.5 million kilometers a year, with the fuel saved this way an airplane could fly around the Earth as many as thirty times.

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