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High-performance computing and AI-backed software will underlie the new early warning system for Europe’s skies

The friendly skies are not always so friendly, with volcanoes suddenly spewing ash or sandstorms blown kilometres into the atmosphere. EU-funded research has delivered a comprehensive, near real-time impact forecast tool to make decisions easier and outcomes more effective.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

The ash plume resulting from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in April 2010 led to the progressive closure of much of Europe’s airspace over a seven-day period. More than 100 000 flights were cancelled, with almost a third of worldwide scheduled passenger capacity grounded over the two days of maximum impact. The disruption affected some 10 million passengers and cost the industry between EUR 1.5 billion and EUR 2.5 billion. To mitigate the effects of future atmospheric adverse events on passengers, airports, airlines and aeroplanes, the EU-funded ICE4ATM project has delivered pioneering high-performance computing software by the same name. Supported by AI and state-of-the-art data analytics, it can be used to forecast impact and support effective decision making.

The best keeps getting better

The project began with a focus on ash dispersion simulation and its impact on flight trajectories. To do this, ICE4ATM monitors sources like volcanic ash advisory centres and observatories 24/7 for events. Impact assessment employs external and custom-made atmospheric dispersion models, parameters for flight plan configurations, aircraft specifics and forecasted weather conditions to model the evolution and impact of the event. The software was incorporated into a software-as-a-service solution, Mitiga VIEWS, and provides solutions such as delaying, rerouting or cancelling flights that have not yet taken off. According to project technical coordinator Mauricio Hanzich, Chief Technology Officer at Mitiga Solutions, the ICE4ATM project was pivotal for the company. It enabled Mitiga to improve and extend its services despite COVID-19 challenges to the air traffic management market. “ICE4ATM and its early adopter programme highlighted the need for VIEWS services on the ground – for airports – complementary to those for aircraft in flight. Our VIEWS commercial service has been available for the last couple of years,” Hanzich explains. The Mitiga Edose service assesses the exposure of aircraft engines to ash, mineral dust, sea salt, sulfur dioxide and sulfate ions. It translates the exposure into engine ingestion based on engine type, meteorological conditions and the flight phase. “Mitiga is upgrading this service, one of the most promising commercial outcomes of the project,” adds Hanzich. It will support long-term contract negotiations for maintenance, repair and operation and for engine leasing and also enable properly scheduled maintenance, reducing the time and cost associated with downtime. Mitiga has migrated its services to the cloud and achieved more than 99.9 % availability 24/7, thanks to ICE4ATM funding. A crowning achievement, “VIEWS was recently selected as the replacement for a tool created by Eurocontrol (the European organisation responsible for the safety of air navigation) after Eyjafjallajökull. This means Mitiga will supply the new early warning system for the entire European sky,” added Hanzich.

With an eye on the future and green aviation

Mitiga is adapting its product suite to support minimising the aerospace industry’s carbon footprint. The software is uniquely qualified given its forecasting and modelling capabilities regarding atmospheric threats, its flight planning and management system and its mapping capabilities. ICE4ATM outcomes have become more relevant than ever for the industry’s competitiveness. The innovative holistic services will have broad-reaching impact on Europe’s post COVID recovery and beyond.


ICE4ATM, ash, aircraft, atmospheric, airports, flights, AI, early warning system, high-performance computing, software-as-a-service

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