MIT Research Aims To Prevent Midairs

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new algorithm that could help to prevent midair collisions between general aviation aircraft, the school announced last week. The new technique, according to lead researcher Maxime Gariel, aims to limit the number of false alarms typically produced by collision-warning systems. "If half the time it's a false alert, [pilots] are not going to listen to it, or they'll turn it off," Gariel said. His team's research used a two-tiered alert system -- a moderate alert to warn pilots their trajectories are converging, and a high alert to indicate a severe risk of collision. The system also takes into account the extrapolated reaction time, depending on speed and trajectory, and adjusts the warning level accordingly. Tests confirmed that the system has a low false-alarm rate.

MIT's system depends on the implementation of NextGen, which will require small aircraft to broadcast their GPS coordinates. According to David Gray, the FAA liaison to the project, the ability to use the NextGen system for collision avoidance should help persuade aircraft owners that it's worth the cost of adding the required equipment. "One of the key things that we want to provide as part of this system is additional value to the general aviation pilot," Gray said. "We hope this adds value and tips the scale in the direction of saying, 'Yes, this is something that I want.'" On average about 11 GA aircraft each year are involved in midair collisions in the U.S. The MIT researchers plan to present their research results at a conference in Seattle in October.