Pilots from the National Flying Laboratory Centre (NFLC) and air traffic controllers from Cranfield Airport came together recently to test a new system which could lead to safer and more efficient airspace management, ultimately saving time for passengers and airlines.

The PARTAKE project, funded by the European Union, works across air traffic management networks to improve levels of predictability and flexibility, helping to ensure planes from multiple airports can safely use airspace in the most efficient way.

Algorithms work to identify potential times when aircraft might be in the same airspace with enough warning notice to change departure times and reduce the likelihood of delays.

The system could be particularly beneficial in areas where skies are heavily congested, such as around London, which has the busiest and most complex airspace in Europe.

The proof-of-concept exercise, which was the culmination of two years’ research and development work, was held in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) Lab at Cranfield University and simulated departures and arrivals at Stansted Airport, with additional aircraft feeding into the airspace from Luton Airport.

Three one-hour simulations saw the pilots and air traffic controllers interacting through headsets to launch aircraft for take-off with and without the PARTAKE system running.

Cranfield Researcher Manuel Angel Amaro Carmona, who designed and coordinated the exercise, said: “This kind of hands-on exercise is invaluable to test the theoretical benefits of our system in as close as we can get to a real-world environment. It is also just one example of the way that the new ATM Lab in the Aerospace Integration Research Centre can be used.”

Christian Verdonk Gallego, Teaching and Research Fellow in the ATM Lab, said: “User testing by the pilots and controllers has given us important feedback on the process and interface which we can now take forward and incorporate into future development.”

The full name of the PARTAKE project is Cooperative departures for a competitive air traffic management network service. The project has received funding from the European Union’s SESAR Joint Undertaking agreement under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The ATM group at Cranfield is led by Dr Francisco Saez Nieto. 



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