A Framework to Assess the Ability of Automation to Deliver Capacity Targets in European Airspace

This report introduces the research carried out at Imperial College London sponsored by the HALA! Research Network and The Lloyd's Register Educational Trust.

1. Objective
The current Air Traffic Management (ATM) concept of operations will change due to the implementation of the future Single European Sky (SES) and Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) modernisation initiatives. Due to this shift, currently used capacity estimation methodologies need to be adapted or redefined to prove their validity for the future systems. This research introduces a methodology to develop an airspace capacity estimation framework, able to embrace a wide variety of scenarios, including both current and long-term, and to assess the impact of new technologies with greater degrees of automation and new procedures on airspace capacity.

2. Methodology
The methodology used to achieve the before mentioned objective begins with a thorough understanding of the future ATM modernisation initiatives by means of a literature review of the future ATM concepts (e.g. (SESAR 2008)). Subsequently, a review on the capacity estimation processes is achieved, once again through a literature review (e.g. (EUROCONTROL 2007; Majumdar et al. 2005)) along with a European survey (skyguide-Switzerland, AENA-Spain or EUROCONTROL amongst others) in the capacity estimation domain, encompassing visits to Air Traffic Control (ATC) centres and interviews with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The capacity estimation survey, lists which metrics (e.g. throughput or occupancy), modelling techniques (judgmental, fast time techniques or real time simulations), simulation tools (e.g. RAMS, AirTOp or PUMA) and scope (temporal and spatial) are the different methodologies using.
After the most significant capacity estimation methodologies are identified, the research assesses the ability of each methodology to accurately estimate the future airspace capacity figures given the complexities of the future ATM system. In addition, it captures the transferability and flexibility of each methodology to capture multiple operational improvements, in order to obtain global capacity estimations rather than estimations which are biased by the effect of marginal capacity gains.
The capacity estimation methodologies assessment is accomplished based on a previous establishment of modelling needs (e.g. which capacity factors are considered or which ATM functions are modelled) and a crossed-comparison analysis between the different methodologies. Based on the findings of this phase, a specific methodology for the framework is chosen, able to be used for current and long-term capacity estimations.

3. Results/Findings
The research identifies a lack of agreement between Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) regarding the methodology used to assess the capacity gains obtained by the introduction of new ATM concepts. Judgmental or subjective techniques (Maxwell 1975), fast time techniques (Boogaard 2007) and real time simulations (Gool and Schröter 1999) are used in different manners over different regions.
Not only there is no agreement on the methodology to be used, but also they are even more focused on the operational side of the ATM system (strategic and dynamic capacity estimation) rather than on the long-term analysis. Therefore, the current state-of-the-art associated with long-term capacity estimation is still lacking an acceptable maturity level.
The research finds out that a correct selection and combination of tools and techniques is able to meet the minimum requirements to become an appropriate framework for future airspace capacity estimation.

4. Implications for Research
Given the increasing importance of the modernisation initiatives, such as the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) and NextGen, which are driving the development of the ATM system, long-term capacity estimation has become even more relevant and necessary for the success of these projects, hence requiring a widely accepted methodology to conduct future capacity estimations.
The framework obtained has the potential to be used in different regions and timeframes before the final validation and implementation of a system or concept. It can therefore be employed for feasibility studies of the potential of new ATM concepts, including those introducing higher levels of automation, to deliver capacity targets and for the identification of future capacity drivers and constraints.
In addition, the results and findings obtained from the development and the use of the introduced framework, pave the way for the research in the other domains of capacity estimation (such as dynamic capacity estimation or network capacity estimation) within the future ATM system, which will be crucial for the optimal performance of it.

5. References
Boogaard, Kors Van Den (2007), 'Compute and Map Operational Concepts & Airspace KPIs Based on Identified Available Tools and Methodologies'.
EUROCONTROL (2007), 'Capacity Assessment & Planning Guidance', Capacity Enhancement Function (EUROCONTROL).
Gool, Mick van and Schröter, Helmut (1999), 'PHARE Final Report', Programme For Harmonised Air Traffic Management Research in EUROCONTROL (PHARE) (1.0 edn.; Brussels: EUROCONTROL).
Majumdar, Arnab, et al. (2005), 'En-route sector capacity estimation methodologies: An international survey', Journal of Air Transport Management, 11 (6), 375-87.
Maxwell, Robert L. (1975), 'Automation possibilities in air traffic control', Decision and Control including the 14th Symposium on Adaptive Processes, 1975 IEEE Conference on (14), 561-66.
SESAR (2008), 'SESAR Master Plan '.