SESAR lights the way to smoother airport operations

18 July 2018

SESAR members recently validated a ground lighting system that makes it easier and safer for aircraft and other types of vehicles to make their way around the airport tarmac, taxiways and runways.

Through real-time simulations, SESAR members tested the automated “follow-the-greens” (FtG) lighting system to guide aircraft and other mobiles or vehicles around the entire surface area of the area. Initially developed and validated in SESAR 1 with a focus on the apron area, the solution is now addressing the entire airport movement area. It assesses all aircraft traffic on the ground and identifies the best route for pilots/drivers to take. Instead of dealing with maps and waiting for guidance from the control tower, the pilots/drivers can simply follow a set of green lights, which will lead them to their destination.

Using a simulated view of Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport operational environment, four air traffic controllers from aUSTROCONTROL (COOPANS) and Hungarocontrol (FREQUENTIS SESAR PARTNERS) tested different scenarios, representing different levels of traffic and weather conditions. One of the air traffic 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 validation platforms were used for the simulation:

  • The EUROCONTROL Integrated Tower Working Position (ITWP) 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.

Emese Kisfaludy from HUNGAROCONTROL observed: "It was very interesting to test two different conceptual simulation systems in the framework of the Follow the Greens concept. It is obvious for me that it reduces the workload of the air traffic controller, especially in the field of radio communication. Although the 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 objectives addressed.  The automated switching of Taxiway Centreline Lights (TCL)  and stop bars successfully handled the guidance of traffic at runway entry and exit points and conflicting situations at intersecting taxiways. 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. Furthermore, PJ 03a also takes due consideration of integration of remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in the surface operations when allocating airport resources.

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