NATS new flight efficiency tool expected to identify operational improvements and help airlines save fuel and emissions
The NATS Flight Optimisation System
Tue 25 Nov 2014 – UK air navigation service provider (ANSP) NATS is to equip its controllers with a new tool that analyses the environmental efficiency of flights in near real-time. The Flight Optimisation System, called FLOSYS, takes real radar data that is updated every three minutes and combines it with NATS’ 3Di airspace metric to produce a graphical representation of every flight in UK airspace. By having access to this level of detail for the first time, controllers and airspace managers will be able to better identify operational improvements to help airlines save fuel and cut carbon emissions. The FLOSYS project is part of a NATS’ environmental programme that has an interim target of reducing air traffic-related CO2 by 4% per flight by the end of this year, along the way to achieving a 10% saving by 2020.
FLOSYS helps controllers analyse the efficiency of an individual aircraft through every phase of flight and airspace sector, as well as compare it against other flights along the same route up to 12 months ago, including the average and best performing.
NATS has been measuring the efficiency of an aircraft’s route and trajectory since 2012 using the three-dimensional inefficiency (3Di) airspace metric where each flight is compared to a scale where zero represents total environmental efficiency. Most flights, says NATS, typically score somewhere between 15 and 35. Using FLOSYS, controllers can now immediately see 3Di scores for individual flights and identify specific areas for improvement, or best practice techniques to share.
The tool has been developed by the NATS innovation centre, SPACE, together with Altran UK and Lockheed Martin, and with input from the operational air traffic control community at both NATS’ Swanwick and Prestwick centres. The initial roll out is at Swanick, before it moves to Prestwick next year.
“What we want to do is equip our controllers with enough data to be able to understand the story behind every flight and then to make informed decisions on areas of possible improvement,” said Ash Bennett, NATS Swanwick Airspace Efficiency Manager. “That might be in the form of more direct or efficient routes, or better climb and descent profiles, all of which help save airlines fuel.”
Head of Environment and Community Affairs, Ian Jopson, reported NATS was on course to meet its 4% target this year. “That’s why innovations like FLOSYS are so important because it puts real data and real influence in the hands of our controllers, who are often the best people at identifying fuel saving opportunities.”
NATS is the world’s only ANSP that is financially incentivised by its national civil aviation authority to reduce emissions from flights under its control. Hitting targets will save around 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, Jopson told the Green Aviation conference in Paris recently.