Air traffic management research needs to adequately address all players, including flight crews, air traffic controllers/managers, and airline dispatchers. Interactions between the different stakeholders are crucial elements for the viability of a given concept. A simulation capable of addressing this type of distributed decision-making needs to meet several requirements in terms of fidelity, operator proficiency, and number of participants. Most research facilities and laboratories can provide a sufficient fidelity for one particular aspect, but lack in the other aspects because of budget, personnel, and proprietary constraints.

Many components contribute to a comprehensive air traffic simulation, including full mission and desktop flight deck simulators, air traffic controller workstations, advanced flight deck avionics like cockpit displays of traffic information, decision support tools for air traffic service providers, experimenter workstations, and observer stations. All these typically heterogeneous components have to exchange significant amounts of data in a timely fashion to play in the same simulation. It should only take a reasonable amount of effort for new capabilities, functionalities, operator stations, or simulators to be included in this simulation.

In addition to large-scale simulations, it is desirable to be able to run many smaller-scale simulations simultaneously for research and development efforts on multiple platforms. Furthermore, cutting-edge research and rapid prototyping often require quick changes to the simulation environment and fast software updates. Any maintenance should be affordable.

The Aeronautical Data Link and Radar Simulator (ADRS) distributed “Simulation Hub” allows multiple air traffic simulation components, including pilot and controller operator stations, and airborne and ground-based decision support tools all to be interconnected in the same simulation. It can be run on Windows and UNIX platforms, and provides a “plug-and-play” environment for multiple simulation components. The ADRS was developed originally for Center TRACON Automation System/Flight Management System (CTAS/FMS) integration experiments within the TAP project, and uses some existing CTAS functions and libraries for its communication and database management.

The ADRS software process allows multiple heterogeneous client processes to exchange all necessary information in the same or multiple simulations. New components can either plug into the ADRS if they implement one of the different communication protocols the ADRS provides, or the ADRS code can be modified to meet new component needs. For small simulations, one ADRS process can handle all the necessary communications; larger simulations can launch a network of ADRSs. Though used in many different ways, each ADRS software program is identical. Each ADRS can serve many additional ADRS clients, which themselves can serve additional clients. There is no limit to the number of servers and clients to be included in the simulation, because adding another ADRS node can expand each node. All ADRSs share all required information among themselves to allow clients to connect to any node and receive the same data quality and quantity. Therefore, the number of simulation hubs can be tailored to network loading and real-time requirements.

Besides communication management and data distribution, the ADRS also simulates and emulates Host Emulation, Radar Simulation, Data Link Simulation, Aircraft State and Trajectory Data Harmonization and Maintenance, and Process Control and Monitoring.

A single ADRS or a network of ADRSs can be compared to an Internet for air traffic simulations. Simulation components can connect to the ADRS at any time before or during a simulation. All ADRS nodes provide the same information quality. The ADRS is unique in that all information is shared between the different ADRS nodes without any particular action to be taken by the user. Clients have complete control over what data they receive and how frequently. The data interfaces work on a subscribe/response basis. The ADRS can provide data about precise aircraft positions and states, flight plans, four-dimensional trajectories, controller inputs, air traffic management information, simulated radar targets, aircraft guidance inputs, and health status information. It can simulate ADS and CPDLC data link capabilities, and convert data into formats that aircraft and ground automation can understand. Simulations that can be supported by the ADRS range from two laptops hooked together, to 50 or 60 pilot and controller workstations, or full mission simulators participating in the same simulation.

This work was done by Thomas Prevot of Ames Research Center. This software is available for use. To request a copy, please visit https://software.nasa.gov/software/ARC-15390-1 . ARC-15390-1


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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