SESAR ”TBO” validations, video & achievements

Short content:
As highlighted in a previous post, COOPANS Alliance air traffic controllers and Thales performed the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking PJ18 4DSkyways Real Time Simulations for PJ.18-W2-53 and PJ.18-W2-56 in April 2022 at the Thales SkyCentre in Rungis.
Long content:

The following video presents in more detail the concepts developed and investigated during these two Real Time Simulations.

In PJ.18-W2-53, a new conflict detection and resolution tool (CD&R-tool) was developed, bringing in the system proposed resolutions to solve a conflict. The increased level of automation will let the system evaluate the entire traffic pattern to find the most appropriate conflict resolution, taking all flights into account.

In the exercise, the final decision on whether to implement the proposal was always made by the ATCOs, and to facilitate the preservation of situational awareness, the "affected (or concerned) flights" (flights that were under direct consideration when selecting the resolution) were highlighted at the request of the ATCO. The tool worked across sector boundaries, imposing resolutions on the upstream sector to resolve a downstream sector conflict.The tool worked properly, providing conflict free proposals, even if some of them were not optimized to mimic how ATCOs normally work, providing long or unexpected re-routings. There is therefore some space for improvement regarding the parametrization and set-up of the tool. Another topic that must be further investigated is the timing of the resolution presentation to the ATCO. This proved to be a difficult topic from an operational perspective (probably constrained by the size of the airspace and the limited number of traffic samples). To further improve the tool, more simulations in various airspaces are most likely needed, and further tuning of parameters for conflict detection and resolution should take place.

As the exercise was of the lower V2 maturity, it is considered a success, delivering important insights and results for future improvement.

In PJ.18-W2-56, the Real Time Simulation (RTS) investigated how the extensive use of Controller Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC) simple and complex clearances (by the Executive controller (EC) and/or Planner Controller (PLC)) and the increased level of automation in the ground ATC-system (e.g. 2D/3D EPP discrepancy algorithm, When Ready Descend (WRD) proposal, other proposed actions) would impact controllers’ performance in non-time-critical tasks within an En-route airspace environment with high traffic density. The following concepts were integrated into the Thales SkyLab validation platform:

>> Possibility for the ATCOs to build and uplink complex CPDLC clearances (ATN B1 and B2) such as:
     - DUE TO [specified reason] + CLEARED TO + VIA
     - CLIMB/DESCEND TO + RATE - UM20/23 

>> 2D/3D EPP discrepancy algorithm: the horizontal discrepancies appear as alerts in the HMI, and the vertical discrepancies appear as “Check Vertical” proposed actions.

>> Possibility for Downstream Sector - through the Flight Leg - to propose/coordinate a route change to the Current Sector. The Route Field is highlighted in both sectors. If accepted the current sector uplinks the new clearance via CPDLC and coordination ends.

>> Possibility for an ATCO to prepare and share a CPDLC clearance with another ATCO before uplink (e.g. EC to PLC or PLC to EC in the same sector, or in adjacent sector).

>> Proposed actions (by the ATC-system to the EC/PLC) such as:
     - WRD: When Ready Descent proposed by the ATC-system to the EC few minutes before Top Of Descend (ToD) if no conflict and no EPP/FDP discrepancy (120 sec. for B2, 60 sec. for B1).
     - Align TOD: proposal to align the ground TOD and the EPP TOD.
     - Approaching TOD: conditions are not met to send a WRD, thus system gets the attention of the ATCO indicating that the TOD is close.
     - Check Vertical: proposal to check the vertical profile against the EPP profile (using the Vertical Aid Window potentially).

Globally, the results and outcomes of the RTS for PJ.18-W2-56 are very positive:

>> The new concepts were perceived quite supportive in managing the traffic, and positively impacted the workload, the situational awareness, the job satisfaction and the team’s communication.

>> The changes in task-sharing (EC/PLC) induced by the extensive use of CPDLC contributed to increase the team’s situation awareness and lowered the EC workload (especially the brilliant “share” function allowing the PLC to prepare some of the clearances and submit them to the EC). From an ATCO perspective, what is usually considered to be time critical may no longer be considered as such if concatenated and complex messages can be used, and if less R/T is synonymous with time gain and increased team’s situation awareness.

>> The horizontal and vertical discrepancy alerts were also deemed as potentially useful, but the EPP implementation in the platform would certainly deserve some further tuning/development for the next validation phase to improve the overall realism. For instance, elements such as some constraints, SIDs and STARs should be integrated.

As these are two very promising V2 exercises, COOPANS and Thales will continue developing and optimizing these functionalities in the future.

Thank you to all team members who are making this a reality!


This project has received funding from the SESAR3 Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 872320

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