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Building cockpits for safer and more efficient aviation

The 'ALICIA' project is developing systems to improve the safety of landing and taxiing operations, and to increase the efficiency of the air transport network. The target date is 2020, but some technologies could be operational much sooner.

The ALICIA meeting in Brussels.
ALICIA networking.
© Peter Gutierrez

By all accounts, air traffic will continue to increase by leaps and bounds into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, flight delays and cancellations, especially due to adverse weather conditions, remain a huge problem, resulting in lost time for passengers and freight operators, and lost revenues for airlines and airports.

A plane taxiing on a runway.
Taxiing operations could be
the first to benefit from
ALICIA.
© Peter Gutierrez

Coordinated by  Agusta Westlandexternal link, the ALICIA project ('All condition operations and innovative cockpit infrastructure') addresses the  ACAREexternal link 'Vision 2020' goal of improving efficiency in air transport through better adherence to flight schedules and by minimising the time passengers have to spend in airports.

ALICIA is developing new cockpit-based technologies and applications that will allow pilots to 'see through' bad weather and to safely fly more closely together, thus driving down delays.

"Alicia brings together the latest thinking in air traffic management, as expounded by the  SESARexternal link initiative," explains the project's technical manager Sim Wincott, "supporting new cockpit concepts for improved mission performance and enhanced situation awareness."

Complex integration process
A key concept for ALICIA partners is 'all conditions operations' (ACO), requiring a robust and comprehensive navigation system that can operate anywhere in the world, including at airports with limited ground-based approach aids. The project is also developing a new cockpit architecture to accommodate improved readouts, controls and visual aids.

At a recent networking event in Brussels, ALICIA researchers met with other EU-funded projects working on related systems, including SCARLETT, DAPHNE and ODICIS. "The idea is to get together and try to identify overlaps and potential synergies," said European Commission Project Officer Eric Lecompte, "areas where projects can work together, share ideas and save time and resources."

Work moving forward quickly
Lecompte says the European Commission believes ALICIA technologies will be operational within the next ten years, easily meeting the 2020 target. Wincott agrees, but adds that some ALICIA systems will be operational much sooner.

"We could see our applications for safer taxiing in operation in real aircraft in as little as five years," he says. "We are basically talking about a display that will give pilots a visual representation of the situation on the ground. It could use the airport's radar system in combination with satellite navigation technologies."

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