PLANET Technology Information Day
Prague, May 26, 2003

14:30 - 15:20

Henk Hesselink (National Aerospace Laboratory, The Netherlands)
AI Planning in Practice at Airports: Departure Management

Current day airport traffic is constrained by many rules and regulations. It is the task of the airport traffic controller to optimise the traffic flow, whilst ensuring safety. Departure management is the complex task of optimising departure traffic at airports involving many actors, such as controllers, pilots, handlers, push-back, catering, fueling, and of course passengers. A departure management function supports all actors and takes preferences of all actors involved into account.

We used constraint reasoning for solving the departure scheduling problem. Where aircraft are represented by the flight object, the airports regulations are represented in constraints. The most important constraints concern speed and time separation. Aircraft following each other are constrained by their relative speeds and by the wake vortex, which requires a larger separation for a small aircraft following a large one. Other constraints are the air route that aircraft follow (i.e. optimal use of airspace through separating following aircraft on different routes) and the acceptance rate of the air traffic controller of the next control sector. Overconstraint problems are solved by constraint relaxation.

The departure scheduling management function is a decision support aid for the airport traffic controller. Especially during peak periods and in changing meteorological conditions (e.g. changing a runway configuration), the function has proven its use. Furthermore, environmental rules often impose a strong constraint on the routes for aircraft to fly and controllers cannot always oversee the consequences of certaint choices, especially when these contradict the optimisation criterion. Trials have been performed at Prague, Hamburg, Paris Orly, and Rome airports.
Henk Hesselink is employed at the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands since 1991. He is currently group leader "Airport Decision Support Systems". Henk has been working in the field of air traffic control since his employment at NLR and is involved in airport ground movement and planning since the early days of the "Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems" (A-SMGCS) in 1996. He was project leader for several projects on airport traffic controller support in planning air traffic, mainly for planning of departing traffic from the gate, over the airport, to the first air sector. He was also project leader for constructing the first international airport simulator that was equiped with an A SMGCS. Currently, he is working on the project Triple-I: Intelligence Instead of Infrastructure, a proof-of-concept project for demonstrating new airport functions in the NLR Tower Research Simulator.

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