Situational awareness

Air traffic controllers must solve a four-dimensional (space + time) problem in their head using only the conventional two-dimensional radar display. This works when things are normal, but when for example, a thunder storm closes part of the airspace, the usual solutions do not work, and traffic must be slowed.

I solved this problem a decade ago. The above picture represents the situation for AAL1052, somewhere over Cleveland, OH, in what was at the time the busiest sector in the airspace, ZOB48. (This region was resectored because it was considered too hard to manage.) In this plot, the colored blotches represent other flights that would interfere with AAL1052 within the next 10 minutes. The Red rectangle represents interference with a 50 nm diameter cylinder in the center of ZOB48 that represents closed airspace due to a thunder storm. Interfere means to come within 5 nm horizontally and 1000 ft vertically. For example, if AAL1052 were to head on 220 degrees and at 30,000 ft, it would get too close to MXA880. AAL1052 wants to go on the heading represented by the red +, but it comes too close to CHQ4817. Therefore the simulator put it on the heading represented by the green X. AAL1052 could also have changed altitude to avoid the other flight. Of course, this plot is continually updated.

The pilot in AAL1052 has full awareness of where (azimuth and altitude) to look for nearby flights. This plot will not even show a flight ahead or behind AAL1052 if they are all going at the same speed (miles-in-trail), a common situation on the NYC-Chicago routes. The pilot can select any heading within the white (unoccluded) area, and this will be a fail-safe route for the lookahead time.

This was all done on a rather puny Sony laptop. I presented this problem at a TeraGrid supercomputing contest two years ago, and it was solved (in 2-D) by a very smart high school student.


Submitted by Shirvi on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 20:04


Its very important to aircraft to his rule because there is no traffic inspector on the sky it's required to have them operation during the time when they're in the higher environment.“We know that there are a lot of activities going on. We have seen it even to date, but the activities are increasing at a very steep rate. Because of that we are trying to stay on top of it, stay ahead of it. It is very difficult to do and we are not going to do it directly and we are not going to do it in a timely fashion but we are going to do it. -bill williamsflights to Melbourne

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