Smarter air traffic to save fuel

Wednesday, 06 August, 2008

Smarter air traffic control could save 500 kg of fuel and reduce airport noise by 35% for a typical Boeing 747 flight between Sydney and Melbourne, according to a team of Canberra-based researchers.

The team have developed an air traffic simulator which produced these estimates.

The team hope the system will transform the management of airspace — saving fuel, reducing carbon emissions and reducing ground noise.

“Our system is the first in the world to integrate air traffic modelling with data and computations on aircraft noise and emissions,” said Sameer Alam, who developed the system with the assistance of his colleagues at the University of New South Wales campus located at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

“It can simulate existing and advanced air traffic control procedures showing the resulting emission and noise patterns. In the future we expect that air traffic controllers would use the system to evaluate and modify flight paths to reduce noise and emissions.

“The Air Traffic and Operations Management Simulator (ATOMS) leads to a smarter, cleaner system of air traffic management,” says Sameer.

One approach, for instance, can lower fuel use and decrease emissions by flying aircraft on more direct paths at altitudes where the winds are most favourable, as opposed to following a fixed route structure, Sameer said. Another can significantly reduce the noise impact of landing aircraft on residential areas by keeping aircraft at higher altitudes on their approach to the airport and reducing power during descent.

The simulator is currently being used by AirServices Australia to study environmental impact of air traffic procedures, and is also the primary simulator in a research study funded by the Eurocontrol Experimental Centre, Paris.

“Our next big challenge is to translate the innovative air traffic procedures which emerged from the simulation into a form that is acceptable for operations. Introducing such new concepts into an operational environment is challenging given the complexity and dynamics of any air traffic system,” Sameer said.


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