349 Offshore Precipitation Capability in Support of the FAA Caribbean Initiative

Monday, 8 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Mark S. Veillette, MIT, Lexington, MA; and M. Tucker, R. Segers, A. Moosakhanian, R. Bass, S. Bodkin, and R. Novia

Effective air traffic control requires accurate and timely radar depictions of storm
location and intensity, so controllers can effectively manage air traffic congestion in the
presence of weather. The Caribbean region, which represents over a million square
kilometers of offshore US airspace that supports nearly 17% of all US outbound
passengers, has very little weather radar coverage to support operations. The lack of
crucial weather information was defined as an operational gap in 2011 by a Miami
controller, within this airspace. Air traffic demand in the Caribbean is expected to grow
rapidly by five to six percent over the next decade, and thus the lack of weather radar
coverage within this airspace will continue to be a major hurdle for air traffic control.
In response to this problem, the FAA, in partnership with National Air Traffic Controllers
Association (NATCA) and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, developed the Offshore
Precipitation Capability (OPC). OPC is a system designed to fuse multiple forms of nonradar
data to create radar-like depictions of precipitation intensity and storm height in
regions outside of weather radar coverage. By leveraging OPC with existing radar data,
controllers are provided with a seamless picture of precipitation intensity and echo top
height both inside and outside radar coverage. In the summer of 2017, the research
prototype of OPC was transitioned into an operational demonstration at five key Air
Traffic Control centers, including Miami, San Juan, Houston, New York, and the Air
Traffic Control System Command Center. This capability will provide an interim
solution while OPC is transitioned into the NextGen Weather Processor for full
operational integration. This talk will provide an overview of the OPC technology,
highlights of the transition into operations, as well as early feedback of the capability.
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