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FAST OPtimiser for continuous descent approaches

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Efficient aircraft landings

An EU team developed an on-board controller for optimising aircraft Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) to airports. The system smoothes descent by minimising the use of engines and brakes, also considering external factors such as wind.

Industrial Technologies

Aircraft approaches to airports conventionally involve a series of level stages, requiring additional engine power, which wastes fuel and creates excessive noise. The CDA alternative reduces the terminal moving area capacity, yet increases the complexity of air traffic control (ATC). The EU-funded FASTOP (Fast optimiser for continuous descent approaches) project aimed to provide a software solution. The three-member consortium was administered under an umbrella group of EU projects called the Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). FASTOP worked to create an on-board controller that quickly calculates CDA profiles to minimise engine thrust and use of air brakes. Software was also meant to comply with ATC time requirements. The project was originally intended to run for 13 months from November 2012; however, following an extension, it concluded in March 2014. The group achieved a near-real time optimiser in the C++ language, using the CONOPT non-linear programming solver. The software also featured improved mathematical modelling. Trajectory computations involved numerous complex external factors, including wind, fuel flow and aircraft model. The optimisation process ran every time the aircraft trajectory deviated from a given error threshold. The optimiser was integrated into the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) simulator in Amsterdam, and flight test evaluations were planned for 2015. Researchers presented two conference papers on the work. The FASTOP project developed a flight control system to optimise airport CDA. Flight testing had also been scheduled.

Keywords

Aircraft landings, Continuous Descent Approach, air traffic control, Clean Sky, engine thrust

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