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Real-Time Safety Monitoring of National Airspace To Be Demonstrated To The National Research Council
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Real-Time Safety Monitoring of National Airspace To Be Demonstrated To The National Research Council

Real-time safety monitoring and prediction of the National Airspace System (NAS) will be demonstrated to the National Research Council (NRC) on January 23rd. The Real-Time Safety Monitoring (RTSM) proof-of-concept prototype analyzes live NAS data from a region of airspace extending 50 nautical miles from San Francisco airport 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 RTSM. RTSM 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.

BACKGROUND: Safety is paramount in the NAS. As the NAS continues to evolve with increased traffic and new operational paradigms, maintaining safety becomes more challenging. To this end, the Intelligent System Division’s Discovery and Systems Health Tech Area has been developing the Real-Time Safety Monitoring (RTSM) framework to quantitatively assess safety margins for safety metrics that spotlight NAS hazards implicated as precursors to unsafe events, e.g., loss of separation, incidents, and accidents. Examples of safety metrics include diversity of aircraft being controlled, risk of runway excursion, complexity of required procedures, proximity to 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., location of aircraft and weather systems) and information relevant in forecasting the future state of the system (e.g., flight plans and weather forecasts). Using models of the NAS (e.g, aircraft trajectories, weather movement, pilot and controller behavior, etc.) and probability distributions describing the many uncertainties inherent in the NAS (e.g., aircraft position, weather dynamics, etc.), RTSM simulates many possible evolutions of the system and produces probability distributions for safety metrics, unsafe event occurrence, likelihood of unsafe events, and earliest time of occurrence. An 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 unsafe regions in the airspace.

Required input data and forecast information is being provided by the 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: 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


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