Technology Today

2012 Issue 2

Raytheon's AutoTrac III - Building the world's most advanced air traffic management system

Raytheon's AutoTrac III - Building the world's most advanced air traffic management system

Raytheon's next generation air traffic management (ATM) system, AutoTrac III (AT3), is an advanced, cost-effective solution to the challenges facing the ATM community in the 21st century — traffic growth outpacing revenue growth and the drive to increase capacity and productivity in a cost conscious environment.

The AT3 system is now operational at three Indian centers run by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) — Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai — covering three of the four Indian Flight Information Regions. These installations are an important milestone in AAI's plans for the modernization of India's airspace in order to accommodate projected levels of growth in the region's air traffic. They have also contributed to the achievements that resulted in AAI receiving the Janes 2012 Air Traffic Control Operational Efficiency Award. In addition, AT3 is currently being deployed to sites in Dubai and Hong Kong to manage the ever-growing traffic in those regions as well.

AT3 is the latest generation of Raytheon's AutoTrac series of ATM systems that are deployed throughout the world in Europe, Asia (China, Hong Kong and India), Canada, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. AutoTrac-based ATM products are also used extensively by the FAA throughout the U.S. for terminal and en-route air traffic control.

System Architecture and Features

The AT3 system, with its modern open architecture design and high performance characteristics, is fully adaptable and scalable to any ATM environment, ranging from a simple tower automation application to a fully integrated national multicenter system. AT3 software runs on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware — its middleware allowing it to be platform independent. The open distributed architecture (Figure 1) is compatible with Eurocontrol's (the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation) overall target architecture for an ATM system and is designed to support standardization and interoperability.

Figure 1

The AT3 system is made up of management and functional components distributed across a network of servers and workstations. The components are all controlled and monitored using standard Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). The management components process fundamental system artifacts such as tracks, flight plans, aeronautical and meteorological data, airspace and resources, and are typically configured in a hot/standby redundant server pair architecture. The functional components deliver capabilities to the different users (air traffic controllers), such as situational awareness and tactical and planning tools, via a highly configurable display component and human machine interface (HMI) running on the workstations.

The system architecture and middleware support multiple layers of redundancy that provide the users with enhanced availability and safety. The hot/standby servers and workstations are interconnected via dual LANs. Failure of one server or one LAN is transparent to the user. In the unlikely event of a failure of both surveillance managers or both system LANs, the workstations are also connected to an independent third LAN and surveillance manager to allow for the continued display of surveillance data (tracks).

Flight data objects based on the flight plan data are distributed to all workstations by the flight data manager and can be used to display extrapolated tracks in the total absence of surveillance data. The workstations are also designed to provide continued autonomous flight data operations in the absence of the flight data managers. The middleware also allows the user to logically divide the system into two separate partitions temporarily — this is extremely useful for providing uninterrupted 24/7 operations while introducing a new software build "on the fly." For complete contingency/backup purposes in the event of total system or facility failure, the AT3 middleware also supports the ability to keep flight data synchronized in real time across two independent systems.

Surveillance Manager

The surveillance manager fuses all sources of surveillance data into a single integrated display of tracks to provide maximum situational awareness for the controller. In addition to traditional radar inputs, the surveillance manager processes enhanced Mode S, Contract and Broadcast-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS-C and ADS-B) and multilateration inputs. The surveillance manager employs a front-end processor to convert surveillance inputs into industry standard formats to facilitate expansion and the addition of future inputs.

As an alternative to using AT3's multi-sensor fusion tracker, the surveillance manager can be configured to support the import of system tracks using industry standard protocols from an external tracker, if preferred by the user. AT3's tracker can then be used as a backup to the external tracker. For enhanced situational awareness, AT3's surveillance manager can also export its system tracks to other external systems using standard protocols.

The surveillance manager provides highly adaptable safety net processing for monitoring all systems tracks to ensure that appropriate separation is maintained between tracks and surrounding terrain and reserved/restricted airspace. Additional safety nets to monitor conformance to pre-defined approach and departure paths have also recently been added to AT3. Any predicted or actual violations of separation or conformance are presented to the controllers in a clear and unambiguous manner.

Raytheon's surveillance manager is used throughout the U.S. National Airspace in the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) and Enroute Automation Modernization (ERAM) automation systems. This same surveillance manager is used in our AutoTrac III system, ensuring global consistency in the way aircraft are tracked and managed by air traffic controllers worldwide.

Flight Data Manager

The flight data manager manages flight plans, flight states, clearances and 4-D trajectories. The heart of Raytheon's next generation ATM system's advanced capabilities comes from its highly accurate 4-D trajectories. Trajectories are calculated and maintained in World Geodetic System (WGS-84) global coordinates using aircraft performance data, surveillance data and 4-D meteorological wind and temperature models. Trajectory information is distributed internally and is also published to clients based on European standards for trajectory-based operations. Examples of clients making use of this trajectory data are Arrival Management (AMAN) and Electronic Flight Strip (EFS) systems. In the past, customers had used such systems in a standalone, non-integrated manner. Now AT3 provides an architecture that enables these systems to operate fully integrated. The use of electronic flight strip data by AT3 allows users to transition from the traditional paper system to a more advanced, efficient and safer paperless system.

The 4-D trajectories provide the foundation for advanced tools and capabilities such as Medium Term Conflict Detection (MTCD) with a "what if" probe feature to enable better strategic planning of the airspace and various conformance monitoring aids to alert the controller to any significant deviations of the aircraft from its trajectory.

The flight data manager is also sensitive to Performance Based Navigation (PBN) and Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) capabilities of the aircraft to further optimize the safer and more efficient use of the airspace for both controllers and airlines. Based on how an aircraft is equipped, the system will allow for different separation or routing criteria to be applied.

User Interface and Support Functions

AT3's functional components provide the user interface to the system. AT3's user interface (or HMI) is highly configurable, based on the role and pre-defined privileges of the different users. A major advance in the AT3 HMI is that it is now very intelligent and interactive. All the data a user needs to perform their function is readily available through a "heads up" display that allows the user to focus on the traffic rather than on a keyboard. The various display artifacts allow on-screen interaction through mouse and point-and-click type actions. Users are no longer constrained to perform certain functions at certain positions and have access to a rich toolset to make their tasks safer, more efficient and, in some cases, more automated. The advanced HMI also provides capabilities for controllers to communicate "silently" with each other and with other external systems, through electronic data exchanges, whereas in the past a lot more verbal/telephonic communication was required.

AT3's support functions include an integrated simulator that generates simulated surveillance, flight plan and meteorological data for use by the management and functional components to provide a high-fidelity replication of the operational environment for an advanced training experience. The support functions also provide pseudo-pilot capabilities, which allow users to act as an aircraft pilot, maneuver aircraft and talk to student controllers. In addition, the system supports an auto-pilot feature and voice recognition capability, which allows the system to be used for training without always needing the support of the pseudo-pilot personnel.

As an enhancement to the overall training experience, AT3 also offers an interactive Computer Based Training (CBT) package, which allows students to self-train and familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the system. The CBT package can also be linked into COTS Learning Management Systems to support the development of training packages and student assessments.

Addressing a Growing Demand

Raytheon has a thorough understanding of both domestic and international air traffic management systems based on a 60-year legacy of industry leadership. Raytheon's next generation ATM automation system provides a high-performance, cost-effective solution for the world's rapidly growing air traffic demands, and contains the most advanced surveillance and flight data processing systems available today. Raytheon is working closely with the FAA on the modernization of the national airspace system, leveraging the technologies and lessons learned from our long-term modernization efforts here in the U.S. and from the global deployment of modern automation systems such as AutoTrac III.

AT3 system

Gordon Watson

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