Tech Briefs

TASAR and TAP: Airborne Trajectory Management Enabled by Traffic-Aware Software

This innovation consists of the Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Request (TASAR) concept and the associated Traffic Aware Planner (TAP) software. TASAR is intended to enable pilots to discover trajectory improvement opportunities while en route that will result in immediate operational benefits for the airspace user and be approvable by Air Traffic Control (ATC). TAP is a cockpit-based advisory tool that enables the TASAR concept, and it was developed to be hosted on a Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag. This near-term concept provides pilots with a strategic re-planning capability that optimizes fuel burn or flight time; avoids interactions with known traffic, weather, and restricted airspace; and may be used by the pilots to request a trajectory change from ATC with increased likelihood of approval. TAP’s internal architecture and algorithms are derived from the Autonomous Operations Planner (AOP), a flight-deck automation system developed by NASA to support research into aircraft self-separation.

To make changes to their flight plan for any non-emergency reason, pilots must request the change from ATC and obtain approval before changing their current route or altitude. If the aircrew is not aware of surrounding traffic or other factors, the request may be rejected by ATC, for instance, due to a traffic conflict that the requested route change would create. With the emergence of Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B), a NextGen airborne surveillance technology, an opportunity exists to give aircrews the ability to construct flight-optimizing route change requests that account for surrounding traffic and other factors that may improve their chances of ATC approval for the requested flight plan change.

TAP serves as an advisory tool to the pilot for identifying such route improvement opportunities during the flight. Using network-enabled connectivity to information from onboard avionics, internet sources, and ADS-B In traffic data, TAP has the ability to react in an agile manner to changes in the external airspace environment, such as traffic, adverse weather, winds, and airspace restrictions, as well as changes to the aircrew’s flight objectives, such as needing to make up lost flight time. Hosting this capability directly onboard the aircraft leverages both the improved timeliness and accuracy of information about factors that affect the aircraft’s execution of its flight plan and the relatively low workload of pilots during en route flight.

At the time of this reporting, research efforts are ongoing toward transition and adoption of the TASAR capability as an early NextGen flight-deck application. The TASAR concept has been analyzed from a certification perspective, and the TAP software has been tested in a high-fidelity flight simulator and in flight. Several airlines participating in the flight trial have expressed interest in adopting NASA’s TAP software to conduct TASAR operations in revenue service.

This work was done by David J. Wing and Mark G. Ballin of Langley Research Center; Stefan Koczo of Rockwell Collins; and Sharon E. Woods, Robert A. Vivona, David A. Roscoe, and Brendan C. LeFebvre of Engility Corporation. LAR-18254-1/077-1