MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 30 June 2010.Air traffic management experts at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., are working with academia to find the most efficient avionics designs that enable passenger aircraft to descend safely and efficiently to their destination airports through heavy traffic and with minimal fuel burn.
NASA Ames researchers are looking to air traffic control experts at the University of California at Santa Cruz to incorporate 3D path arrival management (3D-PAM) capability into en route descent advisor (EDA) software for potential use in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
3D PAM involves three-dimensional flight paths that air traffic control can use to stretch or shorten aircraft approaches to airports to manage aircraft traffic most efficiently -- especially during heavy congestion such as during weekend or holiday periods.
These sets of 3D paths contain a nominal path that an airplane would fly without any interaction from air traffic controllers, as well as additional path options to space airplanes and provide timing control to accommodate necessary delays due to heavy air traffic congestion.
NASA Ames is awarding a $42,013 contract to UC Santa Cruz to incorporate 3D-PAM capability into existing EDA software to generate conflict-free, time-based metering solutions for maximum arrival throughput and efficiency under heavy traffic conditions.
UC Santa Cruz experts will help develop and test air traffic control automation technology to enable fuel-efficient arrival operations during all traffic conditions, particularly during busy air traffic conditions where demand exceeds available airspace or airport capacity.
EDA software helps air traffic controllers working in FAA en route air traffic control facilities to manage continuous aircraft descents at low engine power, and the enhancements envisioned for UC Santa Cruz are expected to reduce controller and pilot workload by keeping air traffic control communications to a minimum during aircraft arrivals.
EDA generates speed, altitude, and route advisories to enable airplanes to fly arrival trajectories that minimize fuel burn and environmental emissions, while keeping them safely separated from other traffic and in compliance with capacity constraints.
Over the next 15 years, air traffic in the United States is expected to double, and far exceed current capability to fly aircraft safely, which is among the reasons for developing NextGen technology such as EDA and 3D-PAM.