New Software Could Improve Flight Efficiency

NASA flight tests sequencing software on Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

NASA Software

NASA Software

Photo credit: Boeing PB

Researchers at NASA have started flight testing new software that the agency says could make the National Airspace System far more efficient and reduce noise associated with airplanes near major airports. The software has been named Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes, or ASTAR for short.

The purpose of the software is to develop more precise spacing between airplanes by calculating the speeds required to sequence them efficiently behind each other and designating those speeds to the pilots. By having the ability to more accurately sequence arrivals, flight deviations could be minimized, which would reduce delays and minimize the noise impact of busy airports.

NASA's ASTAR testing is a part of Boeing's ecoDemonstrator Program, which aims to reduce the impact aviation has on the environment, and uses a Boeing 787 Dreamliner test airplane. During the first flight test last week, the 787 flew with the software being run by a NASA engineer on a laptop in the back of the airplane.

"NASA has tested ASTAR in laboratory simulations, but this flight test on board the ecoDemonstrator 787 gave us the chance to see how well it works in a real-life flight environment," said Will Johnson, project chief engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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