Volpe Center Year in Review 2010« Previous | Table of Contents | Next »
Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) and Traffic Management Systems
The Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance and Traffic Management Systems Center of Innovation (COI) supports systems that alleviate air traffic congestion, thereby improving safety as well as environmental and on-time performance. We specialize in research and systems development, focusing critical expertise on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Our work develops and supports internationally recognized real-time, operational communication, navigation, surveillance, and decision support, resulting in an improved flow of air traffic around the world.
Tackling Traffic and Reducing Delays at JFK International Airport
At one of America's busiest airports, John F. Kennedy International (JFK), one might wonder what behind-the-scenes measures air traffic controllers and managers are taking to address congestion and reduce delays. Currently, the Volpe Center is assisting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in designing and deploying cutting-edge technology to enable air traffic personnel to provide increasingly safer and more efficient service to airlines and passengers. At JFK, the Volpe Center has supported the implementation of two enhancements of the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) aircraft tracking system.
ASDE-X is an Internet-age version of radar that enables air traffic controllers and managers to “see” aircraft on taxiways and runways even when they are not visible from the tower cab, potentially due to fog, haze, or other obstructions, by viewing a real-time display.
The Volpe Center and Sensis Corporation, on behalf of FAA, implemented a unique extension of ASDE-X to provide aircraft position data for the entire JFK airport surface right up to the parking gate. With real-time monitoring of queues in these previously “invisible” areas, decision-makers can better anticipate backups and balance departures and arrivals.
The second ASDE-X enhancement distributes aircraft tracking data to FAA personnel and other key airport management participants: the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Transportation Security Agency, and the airlines. A commercial product developed to support operational use of ASDE-X data organizes this information for rapid, accurate interpretation and prediction of congestion trouble spots. With this common “airport picture” available to decision-makers, adjustments that impact operations can be made sooner.
These operational improvements are especially valuable, given that JFK temporarily closed its longest runway for upgrades during the spring of 2010. With the Volpe Center's assistance, FAA was able to ensure that ASDE-X provided the best possible information to air traffic controllers and managers under any scenario. (Sponsored by FAA)
Award-Winning Expansion of Air Traffic Control in the Gulf of Mexico
FAA's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) team, which includes Volpe Center staff, was recognized by FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt and the Helicopter Association International (HAI) for successfully expanding air traffic control (ATC) services in the Gulf of Mexico. ADS-B is one of the major programs that will enable NextGen, the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the National Airspace System.
The team has been working to ensure that aircraft over the Gulf can take advantage of the full array of ATC services available from Houston Control. The Volpe Center was instrumental in the selection of and negotiation for deployment sites on petroleum exploration and production platforms. With ADS-B radio stations located on these platforms, significantly reduced aircraft separations will be achieved.
Early in 2010, Administrator Babbitt traveled to Texas to announce that Houston air traffic controllers are beginning to use ADS-B in the Gulf of Mexico and to recognize FAA and Volpe Center staff for successfully attaining the initial operating capability target date for ADS-B service in the area. Matthew Maki of the Volpe Center's Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) and Traffic Management Systems COI participated in the awards ceremony.
At HAI's annual conference, Mr. Maki accepted the Salute to Excellence group award, which recognized Volpe Center support for this effort, and the individual award for Meritorious Service in recognition and appreciation of his own outstanding service to the international helicopter community. (Sponsored by FAA)
Predicting GPS RAIM Outages to Support NextGen Flight Planning
When pilots rely solely on global positioning system (GPS) satellites for Area Navigation (RNAV), flight planners need to confirm ahead of time that the pilots will have adequate GPS signal integrity, or Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring (RAIM) availability, from takeoff until landing. FAA issued Advisory Circular 90-100A to formally establish the practice of performing predeparture integrity checks. FAA approached the Volpe Center to build a compliance tool so that carriers, in particular smaller airlines, would not be burdened with costly upgrades.
In July 2009, the Volpe Center project team successfully launched the GPS RAIM Prediction website, a set of web-based tools that FAA provides free of charge to enable compliance with the standard. On any given day, flight managers submit about 25,000 flight plans through the site's Extensible Markup Language (XML) interface to check predicted RAIM availability along planned routes. The site also provides a map display and a flight planning form for users who lack the means to develop an XML client, and it includes warnings to indicate predicted outages so that flight managers can adjust flight plans as necessary.
In just eight months, the GPS RAIM Prediction website received over five million queries. The Volpe Center team has monitored and modified the site to handle the high volume and is assisting in transferring operations from the Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) and Traffic Management Systems COI to a 24-hour monitoring team at FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City. The cost-effective, rapid development of this tool supports the near-term implementation of RNAV, a key component of NextGen that reduces fuel use, shortens flight times, and mitigates airspace congestion. (Sponsored by FAA)
Assisting FAA in Enhancing Alaskan Air Safety
Navigating an aircraft through the rugged mountains of Juneau is always a challenge for both pilots and air traffic controllers because of the lack of precise radar coverage. This has meant that aircraft have had to be separated by greater distances than are normally required. Now, thanks to FAA and the Volpe Center's Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) and Traffic Management Systems COI, the job has become much easier.
The Juneau Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) system, developed by FAA with Volpe Center assistance, achieved initial operational capability in late January of 2010. WAM consists of a series of small sensors, distributed around Juneau airspace, that send and receive signals to and from aircraft in the region via onboard transponders. WAM then multilaterates the return signals to provide air traffic controllers with the precise location of each aircraft. As a result, the capacity of Juneau's airspace can be significantly increased with the added benefit of increased safety. WAM surveillance complements ADS-B services that were added to the airspace in April 2010. (Sponsored by FAA)