Frank Hermanns

Satellites have revolutionized business communications in the sky. Navigation satellites are used in aviation and shipping. However, too many accidents still occur because navigation and comminication systems are not utilized to their full extent.

The main idea is to stimulate the airspace or water surface with vehicles (aircraft or ships) as precisely as possible with a prediction capability based on information transmitted from individual vehicles. The simulation centers maintain a permanent data connection with the vehicles via satellite or alternatively, via terrestrial radio links. Relevant simulation parameter vectors contain satellite navigation data, position, orientation, (angular) velocity, (angular) acceleration, the intended route as well as controller settings and other data (weather, wind, machine parameters…). In this way, a very detailed simulation can run in large computing centers, including current and near-future behavior. When collecting all these data, nonlinear predictions can also be performed, and not just linear paths according to the position and velocity of vehicles, as is currently the case.

The system will be supported with additional radar surveillance data, so as to also include vehicles which do not transmit their position and existence (military, sports…). This allows additional redundancy and verification capabilities.

A second computer system will use the air/sea simulation states and predictions to operate an expert system for automated collision prediction and warning message generation. This could have prevented the accident in Konstanz-Überlingen where the human air traffic controller was not aware of the situation. It is quite usual for traffic control staff to experience high levels of stress. Next to traffic control, machine monitoring is also very important. On-board machine diagnostic today is limited and the pilot cannot attend to technical datails too much as he has to concentrate on flying. Expert teams on the ground can be very useful for handling critical situations if they receive large volumes of machine-specific data via a broadband satellite link. Machines should correct or warn about dangerous human decisions. One example in Vienna in July 2000 can be cited, when the pilot made mistakes in calculation the remaining fule reserve. He suddenly ran out of fuel and crashed the airplane with an emergency landing. Automated and remote machine monitoring can prevent many of such problems.

Another application for this kind of air/sea simulation system is the automated monitoring of no-fly-zones (nuclear power plants) or dangerous maritime zones (reefs, sandbanks), to detect possible violations at an early stage and generate warnings. The “network-centric black box” can be realized by recording the simulation data for better accident analysis and instant support for the rescue teams.

Frank Hermanns
DLR – Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- u. Raumfahrt
82234 Wessling
phone: +49 (0) 8153 / 28-2899