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AD4: 4D Virtual Airspace Management System

Final Report Summary - AD4 (4D Virtual Airspace Management System)

The management of air traffic across the wide areas used in international routes is a growing problem with the increasing numbers of passengers and flights in operation. The systems used for ATM are adopting new technologies quite slowly and the modern controller uses working environments similar to that in use for more than 30 years. Despite the fact that the management of air traffic is partly a three-dimensional (3D) problem and the long discussions about the benefits, no extensive use of 3D technologies has been made to date.

The key objective of the AD4 project was the enhancement of a 3D virtual reality system, called D3 (Dcube), for the real time visual representation and manipulation of data in the field of air traffic management and control, both in open space (en-route and approach) as well as at airport level. The D3 technology is capable to manage a real-time 3D visualisation and navigation by means of the adoption of an open distributed infrastructure able to handle dynamical and scalable data elaboration and integration using auto-stereoscopic displays and 3D mouse devices.

The targeted AD4 system is being designed and implemented in collaboration with experts in field of ATM systems, VR developers, human factors and the Italian Agency for Air Navigation Services – ENAV, producing a specific demonstrator that will enclose real interfaces and data coming from a traffic centre and simulation environments and will be extensively evaluated by air traffic control personnel. The AD4 infrastructure shall enable to determine what benefits, in terms of enhanced understanding and clarity of perception, 3D displays and/or 3D representations in 2D displays, combined with enhanced information presentation, can provide to the controllers in approach and tower sectors. It is hoped [as highlighted in recent studies] that improvements in this area will permit more efficient and safe management of more aircraft over a wider airspace.

The project aimed to explore the application and benefits of 3D (stereo) VR display and interaction technologies with a view to determining the qualities required to produce an effective 3D information visualisation environment for the air traffic controller. The implemented system, targeted at semi-immersive displays such as auto-stereoscopic displays/projector and VR theatres, makes use of VR techniques to provide an environment within which an air traffic controller can observe and monitor a large number of aircraft over a wide area, being kept aware of the many complex factors about their planned routes which may affect the future planning of the flight paths, and can use 3D interaction methods to select and re-route aircraft interactively as the data are updated in real time.

To provide an effective test-bed for 3D VR interaction and visualisation in air traffic management the consortium relied on robust, distributed and real-time system which can provide a controller with a 3D environment showing all of the aircraft active in the controller's particular region of interest and those whose routes will take them through it during their flight time. The flight information obtained should provide a complete set of inbound and outbound flights across the International Ciampino Airport (the second Rome airport, where the CRAV centre supplies control to a wider area centred in Rome) and includes a range of different aircraft types and flight distances and shall be integrated with Eurocontrol Escape platform for simulation facilities.