An Imaginative plan for replacing the current system of Air Trafic Control(ATC)
A brief background. The current system will become saturated within a few years, already it is starting to struggle with the increasing number of flight movements. NASA launched a competition, open to the public, to submit a VERY innovative plan to replace the current system. As an ex pilot, I entered and started preparing it about 4 days ago. Since then, in fact today, I discovered that adherence to certain ‘commons’ and something called Apache 2 was necessary. I know nothing about that sort of thing, time is quite short(two months) and I’m not into gaining the necessary backgropund knowledge when I need the time to complete and refine the plan.
Consult https://herox.com/SkyForAll/guidelines from which all required to submit is available. Rather than waste what is a very innovative plan, I’m offering how far I’ve got to anyone who would like to make use of it — no strings! What follows is it, much detail has to be added, but a lot of the innovation is presented. In any case, the limit of the proposal is 15 pages, which is not a lot to describe a totally new system!
The term Aircraft is used to cover everything from hot air ballons, drones, to military planes. Each aircraft has a unique identifier which give information as to its type, model, etc. It is not just that of the flight, but also that of the aircraft itself. This is always added to other information to be passed from air to ground and the inverse.
1 We need to move from a system where airborne traffic is directed by ATC down the airway corridors in the sky and in other aspects of flight to one where where all the sky is used.
2 We also need to move from a system where the flow of traffic is regulated by the ATC to one where it is largely self regulating, such as the vehicle traffic on the ground is largely self-regulating and that deals with much more numerous movements.
With the advent of GPS and the European equivalent, Galileo, the navigation aids provided for air corridor use are now defunct.
Both of the objectives can be achieved by the use of the two GPS systems, hereafter called just GPS, plus satellite coverage when that is available. The proposal starts with the application of the GPS idea, as that is the core of everything. A GPS gives the position of an aircraft in the three dimensions with exactitude. This can be made available to both those responsible for flying the aircraft and ground stations. Ground stations would be ATC and a separate flight data processing computer facility(FDPC).
FDPC — the heart of the system
A super computer could handle all aircraft movements on its own. However, if it went down, the result would be chaotic, so its considered better to have regional FDPC and the main computer is used to detect differences between its results and those of the FDPC. If outside a certian % difference then an alert is raised, one being in the wrong. The system thus checks itself as to accuracy.
The Function of the FLight Data Processing Centre is to ensure that a safety envelope(SAFEN) in distance and height terms surrounds each aircraft within its area of responsibility.
This SAFEN is parametrisable according to the particular flight situation of an individual aircraft. It would obviously be quite small during a landing approach, as the separation time reduces and also by the presence of other aircraft taking off from another runway, but much greater at altitude. In addition to the GPS indication, it receives other relevant factors from the aircraft, such as its heading, speed, fuel state, and traffic priority.
To get a feel for it, an example of its use now follows.
An aircraft enters the airspace of an FDPC for a fly through. When possible it is using a Great Circle route to its destination, which is known. The FDPC computer system checks forward for a given time interval, traffic dependent (being less when there is a high traffic level), say 40 minutes, and establishes if its SAFEN will be valid for that time interval according to what the other aircraft in its region are doing. If the answer is that it will be valid, no action is taken.
If that is not the case and assuming for the moment there is only one other aricraft causing that invalidity, then both are given changes to one or more of their heading, altitude, or speed to both aircraft, causing for each a less deviation from the plan they are following. If one of the aircraft has a higher priority, then the other makes all the changes required. Required changes are given to the aricraft by the FDPC using voice recordings/synthesized voices. It could well be that they instruct the autopilot system what changes to make so that it is automatic and the voice is just to notify the crew. Security issues may decide which.
Of course, this new change of the flight parameters takes into account it will not create other invalidities. As each aircraft in the region is following a path that will not cause an invalidity for that time interval, then only changes for other reasons are going to change anything. Thus the prime function is to keep monitoring that the SAFEN for all aircraft remains valid. As the time advances then the revalidation time advances with it. Thus all aircraft in the region should be able to continue to fly as they are doing for that time period without a problem to its SAFEN.
There are four circumstances that can change this picture:-
1 The Captain of an aircraft makes a request to change altitude, speed, or heading, for whatever reasons the Captain considers valid, such as avoiding turbulence/storm
2 An Aircraft reaches its normal descent point prior to making a landing at its destination
3 An aircraft in the region is requesting take off
4 An in-flight aircraft has an emergency
These circumstances will be considered in more detail under separate sub headings.
PS So far, no human on the ground has intervened! The GPS sees the aircraft’s position over the ground. From the heading and speed data of the aircraft, then the wind direction and strength, which is making the difference, can readily be calculated. The Meteorological services can then adjust their forecasts to become real values for a given location.