4D Skyways

Improved ground trajectory prediction enabling future automation tools

4D Skyways, a pan-European SESAR project, is researching trajectory management solutions to improve ground trajectory prediction and conflict detection and enable future automation in ATM tools.

Currently our systems on the ground are predicting live trajectories of airborne aircraft for conflict detection. However, this work supports the roll-out of trajectory-based operations (TBO), which will enhance the planning and management of traffic flows by providing tools that help flight operators and controllers safely and efficiently expedite aircraft between origin and destination airports.

As part of this SESAR solution, NATS is working with partners across Europe to improve the accuracy of the potential conflicts displayed to controllers.

In current day operations, air traffic controllers’ (ATCO) tools use pre-calculated data to generate trajectory information. These trajectories inevitable carry a level of uncertainty, driven by the uncertainty in the input data, e.g. aircraft mass and speed which is estimated based on aircraft type. This uncertainty is taken into account in calculating and classifying conflicts displayed to ATCOs in their Conflict Detection and Resolution (CD&R) Tools.

In 2019 a fleet of aircraft were fitted with new technology, known as ADS-C, which allows for more specific airborne data to be transmitted to ground-based systems, allowing it to be used by ATM tools e.g. data containing actual aircraft mass. With the availability of more accurate aircraft data, uncertainties can be reduced, and the filtering of conflicts can be enhanced.

Operationally, this would give controllers a better understanding of aircraft behaviour and lead to more predictable trajectories, an enhancement in CD&R tools, reduced ATCO workload and safer operations. This solution is part of the wider 4D skyways project: read more here.

This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 872320. The opinions expressed herein reflect the authors’ view only. Under no circumstances shall the SESAR Joint Undertaking be responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

Potential benefits

Enhanced safety

Reduced workload

Increased capacity

Trajectory prediction

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