The Apron and Tower Simulator (ATS) at the Institute of Flight Guidance presents the controller working positions at the airport. The ATS allows new systems and procedures for air traffic management at the airport and in the terminal control area to be validated.
Controllers at the airport are responsible for take-offs and landings on the runways as well as for flights within a radius of 20 km around the airport. In addition, they guide traffic from the parking position to the runway for take-off and issue the start-up approval and en-route clearance.
In the ATS, controllers have all of the tools and means that they would normally have at real working positions at the airport. For example, the controllers can use approach and ground radar, and they can see all vehicles outside at the airport. They can contact the aircraft and other work units at the airport by radio and telephone. Furthermore, the controllers can receive additional assistance tools to help with the planning, controlling and monitoring of traffic.
Special software is used in the simulator to enable all of these features. This software calculates the aircraft movements according to physical laws, and it generates the radar displays and external view. Pseudo pilots participate in radio communication and execute the controller commands in the aircraft. They respond to the controller in keeping with prescribed procedures, and they control the aircraft using mouse and keyboard.
Click on the picture for an interactive 360°-panorama
Optimized departure and ground traffic management
The major European airports particularly pose a bottleneck issue in the air transport system due to their high traffic volumes. New sensor and planning systems are to enable air traffic controllers to determine the optimal sequence for taxiing and departing aircraft so that aircraft can take off again more quickly. At the same time, new procedures and systems help to save fuel and reduce noise.
Communication between controllers and pilots
Up until now, controllers and pilots have solely communicated by radiotelephony. Now innovative, digital data connections are to provide another way to communicate through the early exchange of information between air navigation services and cockpit. Researchers are examining ways to use this form of communication just as they are examining ground movement control using taxiway lighting.
Future simulation components for air transport
New options for simulating air traffic are constantly explored in the ATS. This involves, for example, assessing new ways for the software to control aircraft accurately and with timely precision. Moreover, the virtual outside view is also improved by adding more and more elements, such as a realistic weather simulation.
The ATS gives the controller a 360° panorama. To achieve this, a special type of projection is used that involves hanging the projectors above the controller working positions. The working positions are surrounded by a cylinder-shaped wall. The view from the tower is projected onto this wall. Thirteen high-resolution LED projectors are used to generate a high-quality panorama.
The controller working positions are copies of the real workstations. They can be adapted to a particular research topic quickly and easily. It is also possible to install external systems, ranging from simple software programs down to completely new work consoles.
Further adaptations are possible in terms of the software. For example, nearly every airport in the world can be depicted and from every perspective. Simple inputs determine which aircraft will appear and the flight path it will take. Ground vehicles can also be simulated in this way.
The ATS can be connected to all other simulators of the Institute of Flight Guidance, allowing complex, distributed simulations of several areas in the air transport system.