Tech Briefs

Future Air-Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool

An aircraft monitoring system and an aircraft user system can interact and negotiate changes with each other.

In the United States, as many as 7,000 commercial and private aircraft may be in the air simultaneously at any given time and date, and the total number of commercial flights in a given 24-hour period generally exceeds 50,000. To maintain the safety and efficiency of air travel, this innovation receives proposed flight plans and associated flight route information and flight parameters for aircraft operating in a given region (e.g., the continental United States), and provides actual flight routes and schedules based on expected air traffic. This innovation avoids or minimizes air traffic incidents by changing one or more flight plan parameters where appropriate, for one or more of these aircraft.

This innovation comprises methods for evaluating and implementing air traffic management tools, and approaches for managing and avoiding an air traffic incident before an incident can occur. A first system receives parameters for flight plan configurations (e. g., initial fuel carried, flight route, flight route segments followed, flight altitude for a given flight route segment, aircraft velocity for each flight route segment, flight route ascent rate, flight route descent rate, flight departure site, flight departure time, flight arrival time, flight destination site and/or alternate flight destination site), flight plan schedules, expected weather along each flight route segment, aircraft specifics, airspace (altitude) bounds for each flight route segment, and what navigational aids are available.

The invention provides flight-plan routing and direct routing, or wind optimal routing, using great-circle navigation and spherical Earth geometry. It also provides for aircraft dynamic effects, such as wind effects at each altitude, altitude changes, airspeed changes, and aircraft turns to provide predictions of aircraft trajectory and, optionally, aircraft fuel use.

A second system provides several aviation applications using the first system. Several classes of potential incidents are analyzed, and averted, by appropriate changes en route of one or more parameters in the flight plan configuration, as provided by a conflict detection and resolution module and/or traffic flow management modules. These applications include conflict detection and resolution, miles-in-trail or minutes-in-trail aircraft separation, flight arrival management, flight re-routing, weather prediction and analysis, and interpolation of weather variables based upon sparse measurements.

This work was done by Banavar Sridhar, Kapil S. Sheth, Gano Broto Chatterji, Karl D. Bilimoria, Shon Grabbe, and John F. Schipper of Ames Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to the Ames Technology Partnerships Division at 1-855-NASA-BIZ (1-855-6272-249) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . ARC-14653-2