Rome controllers test medium-term conflict detection

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Eurocontrol has entered the second phase of a trial involving medium-term conflict detection after commencing tests at the Rome area control centre in co-operation with Italian airspace authority ENAV.

Medium-term conflict detection is seen not only as a safety aid, giving air traffic controllers a more extensive predictive capability regarding possible hazards, but also as a valuable planning tool for increasing airspace efficiency.

Such a system would increase the look-ahead capability from the few minutes currently available from short-term conflict detection tools, to around 20mins.

Tests of the system are being conducted on the Milan East and Milan West sectors above FL295. Tactical and planning controllers use an experimental pre-operational validation platform to monitor the information provided by the medium-term conflict detection system and analyse the data in relation to the radio communications being made by regular controllers.

“The system notifies controllers if aircraft deviate from their flight-plan clearances or if conflict information is updated – and reminds them of actions that should be performed, reducing routine workload,” says Eurocontrol.

Under certain controlled circumstances the trials team will also assume temporary control of the sectors. The resulting experiences and subsequent analysis could potentially lead to recommendations from the trial team being passed on to the regular controllers at the centre.

Eurocontrol trials project manager Chris Brain says that the tests are a “first step” to proving that extended conflict detection is “operationally acceptable” as a decision-support tool.

Rome is the second centre to conduct trials of the system. Malmo hosted a similar trial at the end of last year and in winter this year further tests will be carried out at Eurocontrol’s Maastricht upper area centre.