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High Performing Airport Operations

Specific challenge: Airports are a key part of the ATM network and airport capacity is identified as one of the major bottlenecks to aviation growth in Europe. As the pressure increases on airports, new technologies are emerging that may offer significant potential for improved situational awareness for tower controllers. In particular, an extension of applications and technologies developed for remote tower operations, already well advanced in the SESAR programme, may offer solutions for use in conventional environments with significant potential for safety improvements.

Scope: This research concerns new ways of displaying and presenting data on aircraft, vehicles and infrastructure in a manned airport visual control room. It may build on technologies being developed for remote tower operations or state-of the art from other domains (e.g. security) to present additional or augmented information on existing or new types of display including, for example, head-up displays.

Integration of sensor inputs with a 3D airport model has already been explored and the technique shows potential for use in ATM. For ground movements, existing 2D remote tower solutions may provide sufficient coverage and image quality to support advanced 3D tracking. This capability could potentially be used as a supplementary non-cooperative surveillance system for input to A-SMGCS on larger airports. In small airports, where surface movement radar is deemed too expensive, 3D modelling could provide a cost effective alternative. In all cases such techniques could be used to cover blind spots and be decision support tools during shortfall conditions.

Projects may investigate methods to increase the robustness of algorithms for computing object position, speed, direction and size. Projects may explore the combination of 2D object recognition algorithms and 3D information with behaviour models for better prediction of potential incursions. Such an implementation should provide for robust and trustworthy input to alarm systems that can reliably distinguish false-positives and be integrated with existing safety nets.

With appropriate distribution of 2D cameras and other basic sensors at small airports, a 3D model can be developed to provide precise positioning for aerial objects – a potential quick-win for both remote and non-remote tower systems. The technique could be extended to provide aerial surveillance and tracking enhancements for larger and more complex airports. Projects may study optimal camera and positioning to achieve these outcomes, together with their integration across other sensors that may already be available.

New and precise 3D airport computer models can lead to further developments of operational interest. For example, when linked to recent developments in meteorological models, wake vortex information could somehow be presented directly in the video stream to support optimal separation on approach.

Expected Impacts

The main impact of this research will be increased safety on the surface and in the air in the vicinity of the airport as well as cost savings. Other potential benefits for airport operations may be increased resilience and maintenance of capacity in poor conditions. It could be useful to larger airports that may currently implement A-SMGCS, but since the sensors will be relatively low-cost and independent it could be most useful for smaller airports that cannot afford expensive and complex systems.

Type of action: SESAR2020 Research and Innovation Action (RIA)

Further conditions related to this topic are provided in the Technical Specification of the Call.