TRANSIT: Towards a Robust Airport Decision Support System for Intelligent Taxiing

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Materials Science

Abstract

There is an imminent need to make better use of existing aviation infrastructure as air traffic is predicted to increase 1.5 times by 2035. Many airports operate at near maximum capacity, and the European Commission recognises the necessity to increase capacity to satisfy demand. In addition, inefficient operations lead to delays, congestion, and increased fuel costs and noise levels inconveniencing all stakeholders, including airports, airlines, passengers and local residents.

A critical issue is routing and scheduling the ground movements of aircraft. Although ground movement is only a small fraction of the overall flight, the inefficient operation of aircraft engines at taxiing speed can account for a significant fuel burn. This applies particularly at larger airports, where ground manoeuvres are more complex, but also for short-haul operations, where taxiing represents a larger fraction of an overall flight. It is estimated that fuel burnt during taxiing alone represents up to 6% of fuel consumption for short-haul flights resulting in 5m tonnes of fuel burnt per year globally. This project aims to investigate a decision support system which considers multiple factors to provide more robust taxiing routes.

Current decision support systems for routing and scheduling taxiing aircraft suffer from several limitations:

1) The only objective they consider is minimising taxi time, ignoring other important factors. These other factors include taking into account engine performance which is linked to fuel consumption, environmental impact and cost. Routes and schedules, which are efficient in terms of fuel and cost, are therefore compromised as a result of considering a one dimensional objective.

2) Airframe dynamics are not taken into account during planning of routes and schedules. Consequently, the taxing instructions issued may be hard to follow, making compliance with the allocated routes unrealistic.

3) Taxi time is typically based on average speeds of aircraft. This is an over-simplification meaning that any taxiing manoeuvre which falls outside the expected duration can affect the taxiing of other aircraft. Furthermore, if the approach of including overly conservative time buffers to absorb uncertainty is adopted, the resulting overall airport operating efficiency will be degraded.

4) It is difficult to specify taxiing speeds and heuristic rules for routing and scheduling systems as: they depend on airport layout and operational requirements, which can vary throughout the day according to the volume of air traffic. Consequently, routing and scheduling systems have to be reconfigured for specific airports and operational constraints.

5) Due to variability in taxi speed and over-simplistic models of aircraft, there is lack of understanding as to how much benefit can be achieved by automated routing and scheduling in real-world settings.

TRANSIT will directly address these limitations of current systems, to make better use of existing airport infrastructure and lessen the impact of the growing aviation sector on the environment. Multi-objective optimisation algorithms will be integrated with models of aircraft to balance the reduction of taxi time, cost and emissions. We aim to make the routing and scheduling system easily reconfigurable to any airport. The uncertainty will be directly incorporated in planning, resulting in robust taxiing, verified by pilot-in-the-loop trials.

TRANSIT aims to investigate such a system and its associated benefits in collaboration across a broad range of disciplines and fields (Engineering, Operational Research, and Computer Science) needed to tackle such challenging problem. Cooperation with leading industrial stakeholders, and consultation with established academics, ensure that the work is cutting edge while reflecting needs of the industrial partners.

Planned Impact

The immediate impact of TRANSIT includes better understanding of causes, behaviour and consequences of uncertainties, and the dynamic nature of ground movement obtained by the analysis of real-world data and simulation. Such knowledge can be used in short term (1-5 years) by airports/airlines in their day-to-day planning. However, the vision of TRANSIT, through the investigation of modelling techniques and optimisation methods, is to develop a basis for future decision support and flight deck automation systems for ground movement. Such a system, developed and implemented in the long term (5-15 years) will be of benefit to industry, environment and society. Pathways to impact are designed to deliver impacts by exchanging knowledge between academics and industry, educating the next generation of researchers, exploring future research directions, delivering public awareness, and in particular fostering economy performance and improving society in the following areas:

Quality of life: Taxi time will be optimised considering uncertainty in times, detailed taxi speeds and other operating conditions producing two benefits: 1) more precise and robust taxi schedules, which will reduce the chances of congestion and therefore subsequent delays; 2) Reducing the time spent on taxiing. Both of these benefits will contribute to the quality of life of passengers as they pass through the airport.

Environment: Optimising airport ground movement with regard to fuel consumption will decrease the amount of fuel burnt during taxiing, resulting in lower emission of greenhouse gases and associated pollutants in the immediate vicinity of airports. This is an important consideration as, while taxiing is only a small portion of the overall journey, jet engines burn very inefficiently at low speed and therefore make a substantial contribution to the total emissions.

Health: Reduced taxi time and optimised aircraft engine performance, means aircraft engines are running for a shorter period of time with lower fuel consumption, decreasing noise and pollutants, benefiting residents in the immediate vicinity of airports.

Policy: The environmental impact of the proposed research directly helps the UK to fulfil its national and international commitments. Decrease in the emission of greenhouse gases aligns with the Climate Change Act 2008, which aims for the net UK carbon account for 2050 to be 80% lower than 1990. Furthermore, the European White paper 'Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area' calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% of 2008 levels, and Flightpath 2050 envisions emission-free taxiing by 2050.

Cost reduction for passengers, airlines and airports: Decreasing the number and length of delays and dynamic decision making for different airport operational scenarios will have a direct impact on reducing costs, in terms of wasted time or missed connections for passengers, and in terms of costs of using airport infrastructure, aircraft and crew costs for airlines. Preliminary studies on Active Routing framework indicate a reduction of up to 50% in both taxi time/fuel consumption.

Competitiveness of air transport industry: Minimising transit time, fuel consumption and costs are key factors in an already highly competitive industry. Not only is it important for the aviation industry to remain competitive with alternative modes of transport, but also it should provide a reliable service, as a flight is part of a passenger's overall journey. Therefore, reducing delays at an airport is an important milestone in effectively transporting passengers from door to door, over an ever more interconnected transportation network.

Safety: While conflicts between taxiing aircraft usually do not pose a serious safety hazard, they result in costly damage and interrupted operation. By providing largely conflict-free taxi routes, generated by the proposed optimisation framework based on full-4DTs, this risk can be substantially reduced.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/N029496/1 01/07/2016 31/05/2017 £316,421
EP/N029496/2 Transfer EP/N029496/1 01/09/2017 30/04/2021 £201,364
 
Description Through preliminary piloted trials at Cranfield University using the developed routing and scheduling algorithms, we found:

(1) In order to find out the most efficient route between gates and runway holding points, routing and scheduling algorithms need to take into account detailed speed profiles rather than using a simplified constant speed.

(2) Pilots were able to follow the detailed speed profiles along the designated route.

(3) Comparing to the instructions generated using a constant speed, the conformance error of pilots to the instructions based on the optimised speed profiles has been reduced. The realised savings in terms of time and fuel consumption in the case of following detailed speed profiles were both greater the ones that followed a constant speed.
Exploitation Route We are now working with AVISU Ltd to incorporate the new operational concepts that are being developed in the TRANSIT project into a simulation platform. The developed simulation platform will demonstrate the safety and efficiency of these new concepts with existing traffic control. Through simulation, we will be able to establish these emerging technologies in the market place, enabling public, industry and government to make informed decisions to guide the emergence of automation.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Transport

 
Description I have been funded through QMUL's Flexible Innovation Fund and AVISU Ltd and developed an in-house simulation platform for airport ground operations. This platform is capable of handling airport layout data, actual movement data, traffic demand and sequencing, and taxi speeds and safety separation under different conditions, generating virtual traffic, performing statistical analysis, and outputting 2D animation and Key Performance Indices (KPIs) linked to risk and efficiency. Together with AVISU Ltd, we are proposing a further project sponsored through EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account and QMUL's Innovation Acceleration Fund to extend the developed simulation platform to incorporate the emerging technologies developed in TRANSIT, such as trajectory-based taxi operations, to demonstrate the safety and efficiency of their integration with existing traffic control. Through simulation, we will be able to establish these emerging technologies in the market place, enabling the public, industry and government to make informed decisions to guide the emergence of automation in this area.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Airport Ground Movement Simulation
Amount £62,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 04/2020
 
Description GreenGround: An Integrated Airport Airside Simulation, Control & Decision-making Environment
Amount £86,124 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 05/2021
 
Description Simulation platform for airport ground movement
Amount £14,474 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 04/2020
 
Title Airport Ground Movements Simulation Platform 
Description The research team at QMUL has developed a simulation platform for airport ground movements. This platform is capable of handling airport layout data, actual movement data, traffic demand and sequencing, and taxi speeds/safety separations under different conditions, generating virtual traffic, performing statistical analysis, and outputting 2D animation and Key Performance Indices (KPIs) linked to risk and efficiency. The functionalities of the above simulation platform for airport ground movement have been extended to include an integrated multi-objective optimisation engine. This platform is capable of processing traffic surveillance data, simulating different operational concepts and presenting results in a user-friendly manner. The platform renders airport operators making quantifiable decisions based on statistical analysis and Key Performance Indices (KPIs). 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The future aviation market will operate very differently with step changes in technology, automation and consumer behaviour. Autonomous technologies, including Single Crew Operations (e.g. autonomous taxiing) and Smart/Connected/Efficient Sub-systems, are at the centre of this change. To establish these emerging technologies in the market place, it is pressing to demonstrate the safety and efficiency of their integration with existing traffic control through simulation, enabling the public, industry and government to make informed decisions to guide the emergence of automation. The developed tool facilitates simulation of airside operations incorporating intelligent/autonomous taxiing to quantify the benefit compared to baseline scenarios. With AVISU and previous EPSRC IAA support, the research team at QMUL has achieved the following outcomes so far: (1) 1 Proof of Concept project has been successfully completed using one of AVISU's selected airport customers - Jakarta International airport (Soekarno-Hatta); (2) AVISU is now in the process of purchasing the pending IPs arisen from the previous EPSRC project; (3) QMUL has successfully engaged with the biggest UK player in Air Traffic Control - NATS, to further develop the simulation platform as outlined in this proposal, with significant cash and in-kind contribution from NATS. 
 
Title Airport instances 
Description Instances of real arrival and departure flights for the airport ground movement problem from 3 airports: Manchester (MAN), Beijing Capital International (PEK) and Doha International Airport (DOH). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Preference-based evolutionary algorithm for airport surface operations have used the instances for validation. 
 
Description Airport Airside Simulation, Control & Decision-making Environment 
Organisation National Air Traffic Services Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution GreenGround will integrate ATCO's current/future strategies, baggage loading, push-back/pull procedures, aircraft movements and runway scheduling, assess risks (e.g. collisions and runway incursions) associated with different procedures, augment the existing strategic decision-making functions to include airport design, and extend the functions of our in-house simulation platform from a purely strategic decision-making tool to supporting also live tactical decision making.
Collaborator Contribution AVISU is supporting clients across globe that cover 90% of the world's airspace and 25 of the world's leading airports. Notable clients/collaborators have included international organisations e.g. RTCA, Eurocae, EUROCONTROL and EASA, industry suppliers e.g. ADB SAGEGATE, and service providers e.g. FAA, Irish Aviation Authority, Airservices Australia, French DSNA and Aireon. AVISU has led numerous international expert teams covering major global programs from European Aviation Safety Authority certification to EUROCONTROL/ICAO Generic Surveillance standards for both surface and airborne applications. O'Flynn will bring his expertise in Aerodrome Control Services using A-SMGCS to GreenGround. AVISU's involvement is key to augmenting the existing strategic decision-making functions in simulation to include airport infrastructure evaluation, adding new live tactical decision-making functions and improving the existing dashboard. NATS is the UK's leading air traffic control services provider, handling 2.5 million flights and 250 million passengers in UK airspace each year. NATS provides services around the world spanning Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America, including 13 UK airports and 13 airports in Spain, and manage all upper airspace in the UK. NATS are leading members of several highprofile initiatives and alliances, including SESAR (the Single European Sky ATM Research programme) Joint Undertaking, two of Europe's leading ANSP (Air Navigation Service Supplier) Alliances - the A6 Alliance and the Borealis Alliance, and is a full member of CANSO. NATS will bring his expertise in modelling ATCO's strategies with automated agents, using real-time data and developing digital airport technologies to GreenGround. NATS's involvement is key to integrating various airside operations and controls and assessing collision risk in simulation. NATS will provide secondment opportunities to QMUL researchers.
Impact The project is due to start in April 2020.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Simulation platform for airport ground movement 
Organisation AVISU
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution AVISU Ltd is a consultancy company specialising in providing airports with expert operational support in identifying, developing and delivering operational concepts. In order to demonstrate different operational concepts (including new routing algorithms, elements of 4DT operation, guidance) AVISU is planning to develop a simulation platform. A computational simulation platform is part of TRANSIT (WP2) to model 4DTs. The simulation platform will be co-developed together with AVISU as two-way knowledge exchange: incorporating routing and scheduling algorithms and elements of 4DT-based operation from TRANSIT informed by operational expertise from AVISU. The simulation platform will be used in TRANSIT for evaluation and by AVISU in consultancy. This gives an opportunity to promote benefits of new decision support systems and approaches developed within TRANSIT among airport customers of AVISU. A further project based on the Innovation Acceleration Fund is expected to extend the functionality of the simulation platform.
Collaborator Contribution AVISU is supporting clients across globe that cover 90% of the world's airspace and 25 of the world's leading airports. Notable clients and collaborators have included international organisations e.g. RTCA, Eurocae, EUROCONTROL and EASA, industry suppliers e.g. ADB SAGEGATE, and service providers e.g. FAA, NATS, Irish Aviation Authority, Airservices Australia, French DSNA and Aireon. Stephen OFlynn has led numerous international expert teams covering major global programs from European Aviation Safety Authority certification to EUROCONTROL/ICAO Generic Surveillance standards for both surface and airborne applications. He will bring his expertise in Aerodrome Control Services using A-SMGCS to the proposed project and AVISU will provide a further £9000 cash contribution. AVISU's involvement in this project is key to the realisation of market potential of the simulation tool and intelligent taxiing technologies.
Impact As the output of the project, we have (1) developed a simulation platform that Integrates routing and scheduling algorithms and elements of 4DT-based operation, and (2) developed a further Innovation Accelerator Fund proposal with AVISU Ltd., which was successful at the EOI stage and the result will be known by end of March 2019.
Start Year 2018
 
Title Metaheuristic for Speed profile generation with the realistic aircraft model 
Description Population Artificial Immune Algorithm metaheuristics for multi-objective optimisation with hard and soft constraints was developed to define smooth and continuous speed profiles using realistic aircraft model. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact A framework for generating a set speed profiles representing a trade-off among objectives, including taxi time, fuel consumption, and engine emissions; embedded within full-4DTs. 
 
Title Multi-objective routing and scheduling algorithm 
Description A multi-objective routing and scheduling algorithm AMOA* for airport ground movement. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact AMOA* with preferences found routes on medium (HKG) and large (PEK) airport instances which are 4.5%-8.5% better in taxi time and 5.1%-12.4% better in fuel con- sumption compared to the previously used baseline algorithms. 
 
Title Simulation platform 
Description Computational simulation platform for the airport surface movement. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The simulation platform has been tested on data instances from Melbourne and Lisbon airports. 
 
Description An invited talk at National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Research Collaboration Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Work led to an invited talk at 2019 NATS' Research Collaboration Conference (david.bush@nats.co.uk). Around 100 participants across industry/business, policymakers and academia sectors attended the event. The talk on the intelligent decision support system for airport ground movements based on Trajectory-based operations has drawn lots of attention from industry, in particular from NATS. This has led to a further EPSRC IAA QMUL project cosponsored by NATS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.nats.aero/news/research-collaboration-conference-brings-together-aviation-masterminds/
 
Description Industrial Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was invited to give a keynote speech by ADB SAFEGATE (Fredrik.johansson@adbsagegate.com), a leading provider of intelligent solutions to airport operations, at the company's annual Aviation Summit (May 2018). Through ADB SAFEGATE, I established collaboration with AVISU Ltd who partially funded an impact acceleration project using EPSRC-QMUL Impact Acceleration Account.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Industrial Engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I participated in the Data Study Group led by the Alan Turing Institute and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) and invited NATS' University partnership team (George.KOUDIS@nats.co.uk) to visit QMUL. My research team and QMUL's Operational Research Lab presented the results of the TRANSIT and OR-MASTER projects. NATS introduced their recently lunched university partnership programme and showed strong interest in future research collaboration, joining the School's Industrial Advisory Board and providing support to BEng/MEng projects.

As the result of the activity, NATS is in discussion with me and my team to organise a sponsored "Hackathon" event focusing on using data science and Artificial Intelligence for air traffic management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Interview for Forbes on the Science and Cities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I have been interviewed by a column writer with Forbes on the Science and Cities on the Active Routing framework and the TRANSIT project (July 2016). This interview has attracted 1726 views.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriewinkless/2016/07/15/meet-the-researcher-who-wants-to-make-airport...
 
Description Interview for Science & Engineering South 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I have been interviewed by SCIENCE & ENGINEERING SOUTH for my research on airport ground operations and provide our view on when timesaving taxiing at airports will take off? Details of this interview can be found in the link: http://www.ses.ac.uk/2018/09/25/airports/.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ses.ac.uk/2018/09/25/airports/
 
Description Interview for The Engineer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I have been interviewed by The Engineering on how the researchers and industry experts working together for three years to develop a new on-the-ground system that will reduce aeroplane taxi times, operating costs and environmental impact at airports around the world. The Engineer website is an online version of the UK weekly newspaper for engineers in the manufacturing industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.theengineer.co.uk/ground-system-aims-to-increase-efficiency-of-aircraft-taxiing-manoeuvr...