An aircraft pilot would prefer to receive information on weather patterns, obstructions, and other conditions that may interfere with a flight plan, formal or informal, as the pilot’s flight proceeds, with a latency of no more than a few minutes. Learning of, and reacting to, a changing environment within minutes after the change is first observed and reported is not possible with pilot’s reports (PIREPs), as presently provided. Instead, receipt of a pilot’s report (PIREP) often occurs offline, before a pilot’s own flight has begun, and with an associated latency of one to six hours. The present invention, described as an audio twitter approach, removes most of the latency associated with a PIREP and allows expansion of, and selective filtering of, information that is directly useful to the recipient pilot (RP).

An audio twitter approach, with appropriate signal filtering, is used to provide real-time PIREPs that communicate weather patterns and other environmental factors from aircraft that precede a given aircraft along a flight path. The method begins with receipt of all text messages that are communicated by, or received by, aircraft within a selected distance from the inquiring pilot’s aircraft (IPA). This information is filtered by a receiver on the IPA, using a list of N target words and phrases (TWP) for which the subject is of concern to the inquiring pilot (IP). The filter can further be set to limit the TWPs chosen to TWPs (1) that are originated within a selected distance d from, and in a selected sector relative to, the IPA [e.g., within 200 miles (322 km) in a sector that extends north and west relative to the IPA present location]; and (2) that are originated within a selected time interval (e.g., within 120 minutes of the present time).

Messages containing one or more of the selected TWPs are presented in a selected order (e.g., chronological) as text or, alternatively, as verbal messages for review by the pilot. Upon receipt of the TWPs, the IP determines if any action should be taken by that IP in order to avoid or minimize delay associated with the TWP information. Communication between the IP and any other pilot within the prescribed range, geographic sector, and/or time interval is implemented using a publish and subscribe approach to exchange relevant data. A pilot, such as the IP, determines which information that IP is willing to share, and with whom (publish), and from whom the IP is interested in receiving information (subscribe).

This approach will avoid the radio chatter that often accompanies a party line system. The information received may be audibly displayed using a text-to-speech conversion module that does not rely upon visual recognition and response. A message received by the IP through the filtering process need not originate from another pilot but may be from any source to which the IP is subscribed [e.g. Air Traffic Control (ATC) or other information providers].

This approach facilitates receipt and response by an airborne aircraft of relevant weather and other environmental data in real time, as these data are observed and transmitted by other aircraft in a vicinity of the airborne aircraft. The relevant PIREPs are moved from an off-line format, to be read and reacted to hours after the observations are made, to a real-time format that makes such observations available as they are observed and reported upon.

This work was done by Walter Johnson of Ames Research Center, and Joel Lachter, Vernol Battiste, and Robert Koteskey of the SJSU Research Foundation. NASA invites companies to inquire about partnering opportunities. Contact the Ames Technology Partnerships Office at 1-855-627-2249 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to ARC-16478-1.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the May, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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