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Scheduling and control strategies for the departure problem in air traffic control

by Bolender, Michael A.

Abstract (Summary)
Two problems relating to the departure problem in air traffic control automation are examined. The first problem that is addressed is the scheduling of aircraft for departure. The departure operations at a major US hub airport are analyzed, and a discrete event simulation of the departure operations is constructed. Specifically, the case where there is a single departure runway is considered. The runway is fed by two queues of aircraft. Each queue, in turn, is fed by a single taxiway. Two salient areas regarding scheduling are addressed. The first is the construction of optimal departure sequences for the aircraft that are queued. Several greedy search algorithms are designed to minimize the total time to depart a set of queued aircraft. Each algorithm has a different set of heuristic rules to resolve situations within the search space whenever two branches of the search tree with equal edge costs are encountered. These algorithms are then compared and contrasted with a genetic search algorithm in order to assess the performance of the heuristics. This is done in the context of a static departure problem where the length of the departure queue is fixed. A greedy algorithm which deepens the search whenever two branches of the search tree with non-unique costs are encountered is shown to outperform the other heuristic algorithms. This search strategy is then implemented in the discrete event simulation. A baseline performance level is established, and a sensitivity analysis is performed by implementing changes in traffic mix, routing, and miles-in-trail restrictions for comparison. It is concluded that to minimize the average time spent in the queue for different traffic conditions, a queue assignment algorithm is needed to maintain an even balance of aircraft in the queues. A necessary consideration is to base queue assignment upon traffic management restrictions such as miles-in-trail constraints. The second problem addresses the technical challenges associated with merging departure aircraft onto their filed routes in a congested airspace environment. Conflicts between departures and en route aircraft within the Center airspace are analyzed. Speed control, holding the aircraft at an intermediate altitude, re-routing, and vectoring are posed as possible deconfliction maneuvers. A cost assessment of these merge strategies, which are based upon 4D flight management and conflict detection and resolution principles, is given. Several merge conflicts are studied and a cost for each resolution is computed. It is shown that vectoring tends to be the most expensive resolution technique. Altitude hold is simple, costs less than vectoring, but may require a long time for the aircraft to achieve separation. Re-routing is the simplest, and provides the most cost benefit since the aircraft flies a shorter distance than if it had followed its filed route. Speed control is shown to be ineffective as a means of increasing separation, but is effective for maintaining separation between aircraft. In addition, the effects of uncertainties on the cost are assessed. The analysis shows that cost is invariant with the decision time.
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School:University of Cincinnati

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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