March 25, 2019

DLR implements test campaign for sectorless air traffic management

  • DLR tests sectorless air traffic control in Hungary.
  • Successful test campaign with HungaroControl and Frequentis AG.
  • Focus: Aviation, flight guidance

Air traffic will continue to grow in the coming years, increasing the workload of air traffic controllers. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have been examining what would happen if controllers viewed airspace as a whole, rather than continuing the current practice of dividing it into small areas known as 'sectors'. In Budapest, DLR has been investigating the specific implementation of this novel concept, together with HungaroControl, the Hungarian Air Navigation Service Provider. For this purpose, the entire upper Hungarian airspace was simulated without any sectors at the open day in Budapest in January 2019.

Controllers guide aircraft through the entire airspace

Sectorless aircraft guidance promises many benefits: air traffic controllers would be able to distribute their workloads more evenly while managing same volumes of traffic, while pilots would only have one controller as their point of contact during cross-country flights. The sectorless concept will make it possible to monitor considerably more air traffic with the same number of air traffic controllers than today's sector-based approach. The main reason for this is that the aircraft, and thus the workload, can be distributed much more evenly among the available controllers.

"During the successful trials in Budapest, Hungarian airspace was not divided into the usual five sectors, but instead, the 10 Hungarian air traffic controllers involved guided the simulated aircraft through the entire Hungarian airspace. Thanks to a central allocation system, it was possible to distribute the aircraft among all the controllers, regardless of their position," says Vilmar Mollwitz from the DLR Institute of Flight Guidance, explaining the tests.

At present, airspace is divided into sectors with relatively fixed boundaries, with all aircraft in a sector being managed by the respective air traffic controller. Before an aircraft enters a sector, the controller responsible for the previous sector hands it over to the relevant colleague responsible in order to safely guide the aircraft through 'their' airspace.

The sectorless flight guidance (Flight Centric ATC) research initiative is part of the SESAR 2020 project, PROSA. HungaroControl, Frequentis AG and DLR were involved in the test campaign, the results of the real time simulation will be evaluated over the coming months.

This project receives funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking within the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Union Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Grant No. 734143).

Related Links


Jasmin Begli

Corporate Communications Braunschweig, Cochstedt, Stade and Trauen
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Lilienthalplatz 7, 38108 Braunschweig
Tel: +49 531 295-2108

Vilmar Mollwitz

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Flight Guidance
Lilienthalplatz 7, 38108 Braunschweig