Computerised airport procedures

Researchers at NottinghamUniversity are developing a computerised approach to airport procedures that they claim will lead to faster and greener operations.

The project, which has received just short of £700,000 of funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), aims to computerise and coordinate four key areas of airport operations. These include scheduling for aircraft take-off and landing, baggage handling and gate assignment.

Currently, these processes are organised manually and run in isolation, which increases the risk of difficulties occurring in one operation that go on to affect another. Researchers hope to overcome this difficulty by collecting the information for these activities into a search engine that will be able to analyse the billions of possible scheduling combinations.

The analyses will then narrow down the options to the best possible scheduling combinations and send this to the controllers for review.

As well as reducing delays, the improvements in scheduling are expected to minimise pollution by cutting down the time planes are running their engines on the ground.

Prof Edmund Burke, principal investigator on the project and dean of the Faculty of Science at Nottingham University, said: ‘Many people in the industry recognise that automating just one of these aspects could improve the efficient running of airport operations, so integrating all four would be a huge step forward.’

‘We’ll be developing a computer system that will work its way through the many billions of permutations created daily in each of these operations, to provide a much higher level of computer-aided decision support than is currently available.’

Alongside NottinghamUniversity, a consortium of researchers from Salford, Loughborough and Liverpool universities will be involved in the project, as well as Manchester and Zurich airports to provide expertise from the user’s point of view. The project is expected to begin on 1 December and will end on 30 November 2013.