Virgin America and Alaska Airlines will test NASA’s Traffic Aware Planner (TAP) software that is designed to help air carriers save time, reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
The air carriers will use the application to make traffic aware strategic aircrew requests (TASAR).
TAP is connected with the plane’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver and it scans for ADS-B signals of nearby air traffic to avoid potential conflicts in any proposed flight path changes, making it easier for air traffic controllers to approve a pilot’s route change request.
David Wing, TASAR project lead at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said, “TAP connects directly to the aircraft avionics information hub on the aircraft. It reads the current position and altitude of the aircraft, its flight route, and other real-time information that defines the plane’s current situation and active flight plan. Then it automatically looks for a variety of route and/or altitude changes that could save fuel or flight time and displays those solutions directly to the flight crew.”
TAP has been enabled to access information such as real-time weather conditions, wind forecast updates and restricted airspace status from internet, thus increasing flight efficiency. The software can be loaded onto a tablet computer, which many airline pilots already use for charts and flight calculations.
The software has already been tested twice on a Piaggio P180 Avanti aircraft, a high-performance technology test bed owned and operated by Advanced Aerospace Solutions. The tests yielded positive results. William Cotton, test pilot, said, “We used it to make a route change request from air traffic control, which they granted. We got a shortcut that saved four minutes off the flight time.”
Even four minutes of flight time shaved off on each leg could result in massive fuel and time savings. A second round of flight tests was recently completed to ensure readiness for operational use by partner airlines.
Further, the developers added that the technology can fit perfectly into the system without changing the current roles and responsibilities of pilots or air traffic controllers, which would allow the system to be implemented fast and start producing benefits right away.
NASA researchers expect this and other aviation technologies under development to revolutionize the national airspace system, by reducing delays and environmental impacts, and improving passenger comfort and efficiency.
Excerpts and image courtesy of NASA