NATS eyes demand/capacity benefits of SYSMAN tool

UK provider NATS has started testing a new systemised airspace management tool (SYSMAN) and examining how it interacts with queue management systems especially Arrival Manager (AMAN), and Airport Demand Capacity Balancing (Airport-DCB).

It is one of several solutions NATS and its Europeans have been working on to increase airspace capacity and cost efficiency; improve safety and predictability and provide greater fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability.

The SESAR 2020 Enhanced Arrivals and Departures project, led by NATS, focuses on operational improvements to the management of inbound and outbound flights in Terminal Manoeuvring Areas (TMAs).

SYSMAN enables group supervisors to view predicted demand and capacity in the TMA arrival and departure routes and focuses on periods of peak demand, where demand on one route could be alleviated by making available an alternative route, which would normally be used for a different airport.

Systemised airspace designs would allow a link to the alternative route to be opened up, creating additional capacity for the busier airport flow, including the option to route to a different holding stack for the destination airport.

The use of the systemised airspace manager decision support tool, based on Indra’s Airspace Capacity Management tool (iACM), enables this by displaying demand and capacity predictions across a systemised route structure.

Decision-making is supported by alerting the group supervisor when a route is predicted to become overloaded and if an alternative route will be underutilised, facilitating their decision to make use of the alternative route for a particular flow.

Use of the offloading concept is expected to reduce the need for radar vectors for bunches of aircraft and facilitate changes to arrival stacks in a more timely and systemised manner, creating the conditions for better management of periods of peak demand, reducing delays and fuel burn.

Another SESAR Solution in which NATS is involved is investigating a way to optimise the aircraft arrival sequence in a way that meets both ATC and airport needs.

Working with Harris Orthogon, NATS has been investigating how the current Arrival Manager (AMAN) system can consider Airport DCB, when selecting which aircraft should be routed onto the alternative route provided by SYSMAN. The AMAN has been extended for SESAR to receive alternative routes and allowed flows from SYSMAN and take DCB data into account in automatically assigning flights to these routes.

In addition, even without offloading taking place, AMAN uses information such as the destination terminal and which aircraft have RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance Authorisation Required) capability to use independent parallel approach procedures to determine the best runway to minimise runway crossings and lengthy taxi times. Furthermore, AMAN was enhanced to plan the streaming of aircraft at specific coordination points to ensure that arrivals are de-bunched, i.e. are properly separated when passing these coordination points.

The two solutions are complementary therefore joint validations were carried out to achieve maximum benefits while minimising controller and simulation time.

“Last year we carried out a Fast Time Simulation as part of the R&D for these solutions using three parallel inbound routes to the London TMA to manage excess Heathrow traffic from the East.  The simulation demonstrated the benefits of streaming to a coordination point and using SYSMAN to route balance. The results showed that with high traffic levels, the number of times capacity of a flow is exceeded significantly decreases with the use of the SYSMAN tool,” said Sian Andrews, SESAR Solution lead

“We also carried out a joint real time simulation in March for the arrival scenario, complemented by an additional departure activity in June. Participants to the validation thought that the concept could bring real benefits in managing increasing traffic levels more efficiently and gave positive feedback, in particular on the pseudo-radar map with time controlling scrollbar.”

Following on from the validation activities, an Open Day was held in June to introduce the concept, how it fits into NATS future plans, and to share the results and offer an opportunity to interact with the prototype systems working in the simulator. The Open Day was well attended by members of the SESAR Joint Undertaking, airspace users and other European partners collaborating in the project.

As SESAR moves into Wave 2, NATS is continuing to work with AMAN manufacturers, Harris Orthogon, through SESAR to further explore the streaming functionality, whilst assisting Indra with future development of the SYSMAN system, by providing end user requirements.

This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.