SESAR Follow The Greens concept maturing

A ground lighting system that provides airfield traffic with a safer way to make its way around the airport tarmac, taxiways and runways has passed its validation campaign.

The trials which formed the European SESAR 2020 PJ03a-01 Surface Management Advanced Routing and Improved Guidance tools for Controllers project validated the “Follow the Greens (FtG)” concept initially developed in SESAR 1 and further studied in S2020 to allow automation of the Airfield Ground Lighting (AGL) system to guide aircraft and vehicles on the movement area.
An optimised routing function to reduce deadlock conflicts and permit a smoother traffic throughput on the airport surface was also assessed.
The real time simulation was based on the medium-sized Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport where an offset parallel runways configuration RWY13L for departures and RWY13R for arrivals was used. Centreline Lights (TCL) also allowed the evaluation of a mix of FtG and R/T taxi instructions.
Four operational controllers from Austrocontrol (COOPANS) and Hungarocontrol (FREQUENTIS SESAR partner) tested different scenarios representing different level of traffic and weather condition.
One of the controllers was also a former airline pilot who operated from Budapest Airport and he evaluated the concept from a flight crew perspective by using the 3D Cockpit view. They found that the advanced routing and guidance solution could reduce conflicts and enable smoother traffic throughput on the airport surface.
Two validations platform were used during the simulation:

  • The EUROCONTROL integrated tower working position with electronic flight strips, airport safety nets, routing and guidance functions and applying segment control 2-3 lamps for FtG automation,
  • The industry prototype developed by FREQUENTIS and SINTEF (NATMIG) with electronic flight strips, an advance routing and guidance functions and applying single lamp control for FtG automation.

Hungarian controllers commented very positively on the evaluation. Emese Kisfaludy reported: “It was very interesting to test two different conceptual simulation systems in the framework of the Follow The Greens project. It is obvious for me that it reduces the workload of the air traffic controller, especially in the field of radio communication. Although systems require further development, they can be fully integrated into the modern air traffic management environment.”
Initial results show positive feedback from the controllers on all the addressed objectives.  The FtG concept has continued to mature with the management of mobiles in conflicting situations being handled by the automated switching of TCL and stop bars. In addition, issues associated with FtG operations such as phraseology, the use of FtG at an airport where some taxiways are not equipped with TCL, and alerts were successfully evaluated.
The innovative guidance function supported by an advanced routing algorithm showed potential for further development to provide smoother aircraft movement by continuously reacting on the monitored time/speed information along the route of each mobile and proposing aircraft speed accordingly.
The validation exercise is part of the PJ 03a Integrated Surface Management (SUMO) project aims at optimising airport resources allocation to ensure smoother and more predictable airport operations in all weather conditions.