Aviation Weather Route Optimization for Four-dimensional Flight Trajectories

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010
David I. Knapp, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, White Sands Missile Range, NM; and T. Jameson and T. Hicks

Results of an advancing research project to develop an automated method to optimize aircraft routes so they minimize adverse weather impacts have led to the initial experimental implementations of the technology for both Department of Defense and civilian applications. The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has teamed with the Harris Corporation through a Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA) to transition ARL's Aviation Weather Routing Tool (AWRT) into an initial operational capability. The AWRT relies on 4-D aviation weather impact grids of such parameters as current and forecast icing, turbulence, winds, clouds, and convection applied to specific flight routes. A route optimization scheme is then used to determine the best alternate routing if the original route is shown to pass through grid regions of adverse weather. The application of the AWRT transitioning to the Army and the Air Force will include the capability to identify and use restricted airspace as “no fly zones” in the optimization calculations, and to adjust the amount of risk for each mission, translating to how much of a given flight route will be optimized to fly through (instead of around) some adverse weather airspace in order to successfully complete the mission. Providing such risk assessment options will enable mission commanders and airspace controllers to make smarter routing risk assessment decisions. The civilian application developed by the Harris Corporation focuses on the Aviation Weather Avoidance Service (AWAS), which addresses the key weather component of a core functional requirement from the NextGen CONOPS: the identification of where and when aircraft can or cannot safely fly. AWAS is designed to interface with the NextGen 4D Weather cube via publish/subscribe methodologies so it can constantly ingest and store weather observation and forecast data. Other inputs to the system are active and planned flight trajectories and user-provided flight governance rules.