Uncorrelated encounter model of the National Airspace System version 1.0
November 14, 2008
Airspace encounter models, covering close encounter situations that may occur after standard separation assurance has been lost, are a critical component in the safety assessment of aviation procedures and collision avoidance systems. Of particular relevance to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) is the potential for encountering general aviation aircraft that are flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and which may not be in contact with air traffic control. In response to the need to develop a model of these types of encounters, Lincoln Laboratory undertook an extensive radar data collection and modeling effort involving more than 120 sensors across the U.S. This report describes the structure and content of that encounter model. The model is based on the use of Bayesian networks to represent relationships between dynamic variables and to construct random aircraft trajectories that are statistically similar to those observed in the radar data. The result is a framework from which representative intruder trajectories can be generated and used in fast-time Monte Carlo simulations to provide accurate estimates of collision risk. The model described in this report is one of three developed by Lincoln Laboratory. An encounter with an intruder that does not have a transponder, or between two aircraft using a Mode A code of 1200 (VFR), is uncorrelated in the sense that it is unlikely that there would be prior intervention by air traffic control. The uncorrelated model described in this report is based on transponder-equipped aircraft using a 1200 (VFR) Mode A code observed by radars across the U.S. As determined from a comparison against primary-only tracks, in addition to representing VFR-on-VFR encounters, this model is representative of encounters between a cooperative aircraft and conventional noncooperative aircraft similar to those that use a 1200 transponder code. A second uncorrelated model is also being developed for unconventional aircraft that have different flight characteristics than 1200-code aircraft. Finally, a correlated encounter model has been developed to represent situations in which it is likely that there would be air traffic control intervention prior to a close encounter. The correlated model applies to intruders that are using a discrete (non-1200) code. Separate electronic files are available from Lincoln Laboratory that contain the statistical data required to generate and validate encounter trajectories. Details on how to interpret the data file and an example of how to randomly construct trajectories are provided in Appendices A and B, respectively. A Matlab software package is also available to generate random encounter trajectories based on the data tables. A byproduct of the encounter modeling effort was the development of National aircraft track and traffic density databases. Example plots of traffic density data are provided in this report, but the complete track and density databases are not provided in electronic form due to their size and the complexity of processing specific locations, altitudes, and times.