Trajectory optimization under meteorological uncertainty

ATM and Uncertainty

Uncertainty in ATM is nevertheless a heavily involved, multi-layered, and interrelated phenomena. The analysis of uncertainty in ATM should take into the different scales, yet also the different sources that introduce uncertainty into the system. From a scale perspective, ATM uncertainty can be grouped into: macro-scale (the air transport network); meso-scale (traffic scale); and micro-scale (single flight).

Thunderstorms represent a major source of disruption, delays and safety hazards in the ATM system. They are challenging to forecast and evolve on relatively rapid timescales. Even for the most advanced met products (which most stakeholders lack of), thunderstorm forecasts are provided in a deterministic manner. Both met provision and ATM use of met information need to consider the uncertainty in the forecasted evolution of these phenomena.


Robust Flight Planning

Meteorology (in particular, winds) represents one of the most relevant sources of uncertainty. A framework based on optimal control has been introduced to address the problem of robust and efficient trajectory planning under wind and convective forecast uncertainty, which is modeled with probabilistic forecasts generated by ensemble prediction systems. The proposed methodology is applied to a flight planning scenario under a free-routing operational paradigm and employed to compute trajectories for different sets of user preferences, exploring the trade-off between average flight cost and predictability. Results show how the impact of wind and convective forecast uncertainty in trajectory predictability at a pretactical planning horizon can be not only quantified, but also reduced through the application of the proposed approach. See [Gonzalez Arribas et al., 2018, JGDC]; [Soler et al., 2020, TR-C] and [Simorgh et al. 2023, IEEE Trans. Aerospace Elect. Systems.]

Thunderstorm Tactical Avoidance

Convective weather conditions create major challenges for the ATM system. Since flying through a thunderstorm entails multiple risks (among them: strong turbulence, wind shear, downbursts, icing, lightning and hail), aircraft must stay clear of them if possible and pilots are thus led to deviate from their flight plans when thunderstorm activity is present. These deviations, when aggregated over multiple flights, amount to significant air traffic disruptions and capacity reductions that must then be managed by ATC and ATFM authorities, often by holding, delaying or cancelling other flights. See [González-Arribas et al., 2019, Arospace Science and Technology], [Andrés et al., 2022, TR-C]

Related projects

  • FMP-Met ↗ Meteorological uncertainty management for Flow Management Positions
  • TBO-Met Meteorlogical Uncertainty Management for Trajectory Based Operations
  • MetATS Managing meteorlogical uncertainty for a more efficient air traffic system.

Highlighted publications

  • Robust Aircraft Trajectory Planning under Wind Uncertainty using Optimal Control. D. González-Arribas, Manuel Soler, and Manuel Sanjrujo. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics.  Vol. 41, No. 3 (2018), pp. 673-688.
  • Influence of atmospheric uncertainty, convective indicators, and cost-index on the leveled aircraft trajectory optimization problem. Manuel Soler, Daniel González-Arribas, Javier García-Heras, Manuel Sanjurjo-Rivo, Ulrike Gelhardt, Juergen Lang, Thomas Hauf, and Juan Simarro. Transportation Research Part C. Volume 120, November 2020, 102784.
  • Informed Scenario-Based RRT for Aircraft Trajectory Planning under Ensemble Forecasting of Thunderstorms. Eduardo Andrés, Maryam Kamgarpour, Manuel Soler, Manuel Sanjurjo-Rivo and Daniel González-Arribas. Transportation Research Part C, 2021,
  • Robust aircraft trajectory planning under uncertain convective environments with optimal control and rapidly developing thunderstorms. Daniel González-Arribas, Manuel Soler, Manuel Sanjurjo, Maryam Kamgarpour, and Juan Simarro.  Aerospace Science and Technology. Volume 89, June 2019, Pages 445-459.