Air Traffic Control Automation & Aviation Weather Decision Support Laboratories

Lincoln Laboratory staff use the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Automation and Aviation Weather Decision Support Laboratories to test prototype systems for air traffic control and to collect weather data that will help inform improvements to flight safety.
The facility's control tower simulator includes prototypes for surveillance, flight data collection, and traffic management decision support. Seen here, a Laboratory staff member controls aircraft at a simulated Boston Logan International Airport.
The facility's control tower simulator includes prototypes for surveillance, flight data collection, and traffic management decision support. Seen here, a Laboratory staff member controls aircraft at a simulated Boston Logan International Airport.

ATC Automation Laboratory

The ATC Automation Laboratory currently comprises a virtual ATC control tower and the Trajectory Based Operations (TBO)/Weather Testbed as described in the video below.

A nighttime photo overlooking an airport runway with several large jets on it, and the illuminated air traffic control tower behind the runway.
Tour the Air Traffic Control Automation Laboratory.

Staff use the tower simulator to evaluate prototype automation systems — including electronic touch-screen flight-data displays and enhanced surface-situation displays — and algorithms for sequencing and scheduling arriving and departing aircraft at an airport. Air traffic simulations with pre-scripted events allow staff to explore stressing situations. Testing in this controlled environment helps staff identify and reduce potential technical problems in the prototypes before they are deployed for evaluation at operational field sites, as described in the video.

The TBO/Weather Testbed is being used to help develop weather enhancements to TBO automation systems such as the FAA’s Time Based Flow Management (TBFM) so they function more effectively under challenging convection and wind conditions. The testbed is designed to allow flexible analysis of the impacts of different weather input and algorithmic changes on operational TBO systems, in partnership with key aviation stakeholders.

Aviation Weather Decision Support Laboratory

The Aviation Weather Decision Support Laboratory is a venue to integrate relevant ATC operational data and to develop and refine decision support systems.

Photo shot from inside of a plane looking out over the plane's wing and green fields below.
Tour the Aviation Weather Decision Support Laboratory.

The computer systems in the facility continuously assimilate and archive live air traffic and weather data from across the United States. Data streams from more than 150 NEXRAD radars are used to validate algorithm improvements to better detect hazardous winds, icing, or hail. Aviation weather algorithms and other technologies developed in this facility contribute to currently operating weather systems, including the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS), the Corridor Integrated Weather System (CIWS), the Offshore Precipitation Capability (OPC) and the Global Synthetic Weather Radar (GSWR).

The Offshore Precipitation Capability, shown here undergoing development at the facility, provides a radar-like view of convective weather beyond the range of ground-based weather radars.
The Offshore Precipitation Capability, shown here undergoing development at the facility, provides a radar-like view of convective weather beyond the range of ground-based weather radars.

Air traffic impact decision support tools such as the Route Availability Planning Tool (RAPT), Traffic Flow Impact (TFI), and Airport Capacity Evaluation and Prediction Tool (ACEPT) are also integrated in the laboratory. Staff are also developing future integrated weather and traffic impact systems, such as the NextGen Weather Processor (NWP), which will consolidate the weather tracking and analysis capabilities of multiple legacy systems.

Staff use the facility to evaluate decision support prototypes. The Route Availability Planning Tool, shown here, is used to help manage aircraft departing from airports in the New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., areas.
Staff use the facility to evaluate decision support prototypes. The Route Availability Planning Tool, shown here, is used to help manage aircraft departing from airports in the New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., areas.

The facility's systems also automatically generate detailed statistical summaries showing the interaction of aircraft with weather in the congested Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. This information is made available on a website every day. Air traffic managers, airlines, and airport authorities can review the statistics for post-event analyses to assess flight and air traffic control efficiency and strategize improvements for the future. Specific problems identified by these statistics help guide the Laboratory's efforts to improve decision support systems for air traffic management.