Mathematical Solutions For Congestion

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For those who think airspace congestion is the evil empire, a Berkeley professor is striking back with a mathematical force he believes will be with aviators in the future. "The long term vision is a bit like what you might see in Star Wars films when streams of aircraft in the sky are crisscrossing each other beautifully," said Alexandre Bayen. Bayen is now working on mathematical algorithms that will enable aircraft to recognize potential conflicts and, initially at least, warn them to take evasive action. But he said in a Berkeley press release that his ultimate plan is for computers that will take over control from a pilot "in an emergency situation." Bayen said the first step is to lay out the mathematical framework for the "worst-case" aircraft collision scenario, which is more like something out of a James Bond movie. "We solve it under the assumption that one aircraft will do everything possible to avoid being hit and that the intruder aircraft is trying its hardest to collide," said Bayen. "In real life, hopefully the intruder won't act so badly." From there, the math is supposed to provide a solution to prevent collisions in every kind of scenario, using the mathematics of "level sets," which Bayen claims will give the computers the ability to warn (or steer away from) a collision. "We can prove mathematically that if the pilot responds right away, he or she can escape the danger." Bayen also thinks his math can help controllers slot traffic more efficiently. "It's a very high workload for the humans in charge of that airspace," Bayen said. "Can we automatically assign maneuvers so that the aircraft are delivered at an optimal rate?" Probably, right up until that huge thunderstorm parks over the airport...