Tactical Conflict Detection Methods for Reducing Operational Errors

Authors: Russell A. Paielli and Heinz Erzberger

Abstract: Operational error rates in the U.S. have increased significantly over the past few years. This paper presents a new decision support tool called TSAFE (Tactical Separation Assisted Flight Environment) that could eventually replace Conflict Alert, the legacy software that is intended to detect and warn controllers of imminent conflicts. To account for uncertainties in pilot intent, TSAFE generates two predicted trajectories for each aircraft and checks all four combinations of trajectories for each pair of aircraft. One of the trajectories is synthesized based on the flight plan, tracking data, and atmospheric data. The other is a "dead-reckoning" trajectory, a short-range projection based on the current velocity. Methods were also developed to predict critical leveloff maneuvers and to detect and model unplanned turns. Official reports and tracking data were obtained for 58 actual operational error cases, and an automated system was set up to test TSAFE by replaying the tracking data for each case. The results indicate that TSAFE can provide timely warnings of imminent conflicts more consistently than Conflict Alert.

Reference: Air Traffic Control Quarterly, Vol. 13(1)(2005). [An earlier version of this paper with a slightly different title was presented at the ATIO-04 conference and won the award for best paper on air traffic management.]