NASA To Test New ATC Technology

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ADS-B technology will help air traffic controllers to implement a new NASA system called “Flight Deck Interval Management,” which aims to make aircraft arrivals more efficient, NASA said this week. NASA now is planning a field test of the system early next year, above Seattle. The cockpit-based technology combines NASA-developed software with off-the-shelf hardware and connects the system to the aircraft’s onboard information and navigation systems. “[Interval Management] allows controllers to deliver the aircraft more precisely and more predictably, which is a huge advantage that helps the airlines and airport operators more efficiently manage air traffic to minimize delays,” said William Johnson, project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

The technology is expected to enable air traffic controllers to predict aircraft arrival times within about 5 to 10 seconds, NASA said, a major improvement over the current average of about a minute. Here’s how it will work: Air traffic controllers will determine the ideal goal for spacing aircraft as they approach the airport. A controller then contacts a flight crew, relaying the spacing goal, the trajectory the aircraft should fly, and the ID of an aircraft ahead of them. The pilots then enter all this information into the Interval Management system, which computes a solution with the help of the airplane’s ADS-B unit. The result is a number displayed on a cockpit screen that tells the crew what speed to fly so they can follow the specified aircraft in front of them all the way down to the runway, at a safe distance.

The field demonstration will be flown by a Falcon 900 and Boeing 757 supplied by Honeywell, and a Boeing 737 provided by United Airlines, NASA said.

Comments (3)

Not sure about this. The arrival period is busy enough without having to enter more data while trying to configure and join the approach. Depends when this "chore" is to be done and how. If it occurs just before joining the approach and via radio (voice) and needing to push buttons and twist knobs, I will not be in favor of it. If it is something that can be done outside of 30 miles and then it may be a good thing.

Posted by: j. noah fong | November 2, 2016 10:55 AM    Report this comment

Technology already exists to have multiple aircraft collectively navigate. The military already has drones capable of autonomously and accurately swarming, tracking, and attacking targets. Why not just couple all aircraft into a network that controls all parameters? Use pilots to monitor for errors and if necessary execute emergency procedures. One could even use independent on board systems to monitor performance of the aviation "grid" and check for out-of-bounds conditions and other errors. Humans are very error prone. It's pretty clear that a fully automated system can exceed performance in both capacity and reliability compared to humans. Consider also that the vast majority of aviation problems, not just accidents, are caused by humans, not their machines. When compared to the machines, we are much more fallable. Eventually almost all flying, driving and other transport is going to be automated.

Posted by: FILL CEE | November 2, 2016 8:18 PM    Report this comment

Sorry that's fallible. See what I mean?

Posted by: FILL CEE | November 2, 2016 8:19 PM    Report this comment

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