Separation anxiety: how to double Europe's air traffic capacity
With air traffic over Europe expected to double by the 2020s, academics from City’s Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design (HCID) have undertaken research for a European Commission Framework 6 project that aims to help air traffic control services meet this growing demand.
As part of the project, Professor Neil Maiden, Head of HCID, and James Lockerbie, Research Assistant, worked with National Air Traffic Services, the provider of air traffic control services for aircraft flying in UK airspace and the eastern part of the North Atlantic.
The team modelled a revised concept of operations for lower level airspace which specified a proposed change to 'separation minima standards' - the rules that govern how close to each other aeroplanes can fly. The work examined how this distance could be reduced to five nautical miles in the procedures that govern the flight paths into and out of airports, known as Standard Instrument Departures and Standard Terminal Arrival Routes.
Professor Maiden explains:
The idea is that this reduced separation can be safely accommodated without increasing air traffic controllers' workload if the design of the procedures is more systematic, aircraft are equipped to follow their assigned trajectory more accurately without controller interventions and there is automatic detection and timely resolution of any deviation that brings aircraft closer together.
Over the years the Centre has brought to completion numerous air traffic control projects and it continues to undertake innovative research in this important area.