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Real-Time Safety Monitoring of National Airspace Demonstrated To NASA Advisory Council Aeronautics Committee
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Real-Time Safety Monitoring of National Airspace Demonstrated To NASA Advisory Council Aeronautics Committee

Real-time safety monitoring and prediction of the National Airspace System (NAS) will be demonstrated to the Aeronautics Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) on November 15. In the proof-of-concept prototype, live NAS data from a region of airspace extending out 50 nautical miles from the San Francisco airport are fed into a Real-Time Safety Monitoring (RTSM) framework to quantitatively assess safety of the NAS.

Data from multiple input sources are processed and fused using the Shadow Mode Assessment using Realistic Technologies for the National Airspace System (SMART-NAS) TestBed (SNTB). For the concept demonstration, a subset of SNTB data, including real-time radar tracks, wind data, and convective weather data, are communicated in real-time to the RTSM framework. The RTSM framework reasons over these inputs and generates near real-time predictions about safety margins for selected safety metrics, such as — but ultimately not limited to — aircraft separation, wake vortex encounters, and convective weather encounters. The real-time traffic situation, safety metric predictions, and any safety metric violations are displayed using example formats suitable for actionable situational awareness.

This is the first demonstration of real-time prediction of the evolution of NAS safety. The RTSM framework calculates and predicts “airspace health” while explicitly accounting for uncertainties in the multivariate factors included in the safety margin assessment.

BACKGROUND: Safety is paramount in the NAS. As the NAS continues to evolve with increased traffic, new operational paradigms (and the inclusion of unmanned aircraft into the airspace), maintaining safety becomes more challenging. To this end, the Discovery and Systems Health Technical Area within the Intelligent Systems Division has been developing the Real-Time Safety Monitoring (RTSM) framework to quantitatively assess NAS safety margins for selected safety metrics. The safety metrics of interest reflect hazards that compromise safety and lead to unsafe events, e.g., loss of separation, incidents, or accidents. Examples of safety metrics include distance from convective weather, distance from another aircraft’s wake vortex, complexity of required procedures, distance from special activity airspace, and operational status of airspace components such as navigational aids.

RTSM takes as input information about the current state of the NAS (e.g., radar tracks, current weather locations, etc.) and information relevant in forecasting the future state of the system (e.g., flight plans, weather forecasts, etc.). Using models of the NAS (e.g., aircraft trajectories, weather movement, pilot and controller behavior, etc.), RTSM simulates the evolution of the system and computes the safety metrics from each NAS state. Given the uncertainty inherent in the NAS (e.g., aircraft position, weather dynamics, etc.), RTSM produces probability distributions for safety metrics, unsafe event occurrence, the likelihood of an unsafe event, and the earliest time of occurrence. The operator can specify a threshold delineating safe from unsafe regions in the state space. These safety metrics can then be used to compute the available safety margins, i.e., the difference between safety metrics and the threshold values determine the unsafe regions in the airspace.

Required input data and forecast information is being provided by the Shadow Mode Assessment using Realistic Technologies for the National Airspace System (SMART-NAS) TestBed (SNTB). The Aviation Systems Division is developing the SNTB to provide a capability to assess near real-time “what-if” scenarios for new technology solutions and procedures for particular cases relevant to air traffic management and airline decision support. The goal of the SNTB is to allow testing and validation of new technology concepts in a realistic environment. Either historical (archived) or current (near real-time) NAS air traffic data can be provided, along with data from a number of relevant sources including the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) System Wide Information Management (SWIM) database.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Shadow Mode Assessment using Realistic Technologies for the National Airspace System (SMART-NAS) project, Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP), Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD)

TEAM: CODE TI RTSM: Matthew Daigle, Kai Goebel, Chetan Kulkarni, Bill McDermott, John Ossenfort, Scott Poll, Indranil Roychoudhury, Shankar Sankararaman, Lilly Spirkovska, and Chris Teubert; CODE AF SNTB: Gano Chatterji, Chok “Jack” Fung Lai, and Kee Palopo

POINT OF CONTACT: Kai Goebel, kai.goebel@nasa.gov

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