NUP2+ project to downlink trajectory data backed by 50% European Union funding

Austria's Lauda Air and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) plan to participate in a new programme to test a downlink of intent information to improve the efficiency of airport arrival management. Having just demonstrated the concept at an event in Stockholm, the development team has launched a new project known as NUP2+ to devise a full-scale simulation and then - eventually - conduct Boeing 737 flight trials with the two carriers.

Backed by 50% European Union funding, the €15 million ($18 million) project - derived from the North European air traffic management programme (NEAN) - centres on downlinking flight management system (FMS) -derived programmed trajectory data for air traffic controllers managing arrivals at an airport. Swedish company AvTech, FMS specialist Smiths Aerospace and avionics firm Rockwell Collins have led the development effort.

Controllers at present have to extrapolate trajectories mentally to plan arrival sequences, says Rockwell Collins research and development director Okko Bleeker, and since this cannot guarantee minimum safe spacing it is inefficient. The ability to extract accurate, constantly updated trajectory information from the FMS is central to the effort. Smiths Aerospace will this year complete work on a modernised FMS for Boeing so this information can be downlinked - initially via the aircraft communications and reporting system (ACARS) but in due course over a digital datalink.

"The FMS trajectory predictions need to be 'out of the box'," says Smiths FMS engineer Keith Wichman. "But all this FMS prediction information is, for the most part, 'in the box'."

Arrival information from the FMS can also be routed to airline operations and airport management. The project aims to establish one-way downlink of the data over ACARS early next year and, by late 2005, include the uplink of ATC or airport constraint data which could affect trajectories.

Improved arrival management could lead to better air traffic management (ATM) techniques including continuous descent approaches, saving 300-500kg (660-1,100lb) of fuel per approach at Stockholm Arlanda.

AvTech has just demonstrated the downlink of intent data and the continuous descent application at its ATM 2004 Industrial Day in Stockholm, using a specially designed cockpit simulator based on the Boeing 737. This was achieved by linking the simulator to workstations running the Rate PC arrival management system used by Swedish air traffic service provider LFV and the Hermes airline operational control system developed by Rockwell Collins.

Along with the information downlink, the demonstration also illustrated the use of a graphical user interface - based on today's electronic flight bags - to convey surface-movement and guidance information to the flightcrew. This application will also be further developed through the NUP2+ programme.



Source: Flight International