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Learning the aircraft mass and thrust to improve the ground-based trajectory prediction of climbing flights

Richard Alligier 1, * David Gianazza 2 Nicolas Durand 2
* Corresponding author
1 MAIA-OPTIM - ENAC Equipe MAIAA-OPTIM
MAIAA - ENAC - Laboratoire de Mathématiques Appliquées, Informatique et Automatique pour l'Aérien
Abstract : Ground-based aircraft trajectory prediction is a major concern in air traffic control and management. A safe and efficient prediction is a prerequisite to the implementation of automated tools that detect and solve conflicts between trajectories. This paper focuses on the climb phase, because predictions are much less accurate in this phase than in the cruising phase. Trajectory prediction usually relies on a point-mass model of the forces acting on the aircraft to predict the successive points of the future trajectory. The longitudinal acceleration and climb rate are determined by an equation relating the modeled power of the forces to the kinetic and potential energy rate. Using such a model requires knowledge of the aircraft state (mass, current thrust setting, position, velocity, etc.), atmospheric conditions (wind, temperature) and aircraft intent (thrust law, speed intent). Most of this information is not available to ground-based systems. In this paper, we improve the trajectory prediction accuracy by learning some of the unknown point-mass model parameters from past observations. These unknown parameters, mass and thrust, are adjusted by fitting the modeled specific power to the observed energy rate. The thrust law is learned from historical data, and the mass is estimated on past trajectory points. The adjusted parameters are not meant to be exact, however they are designed so as to improve the energy rate prediction. The performances of the proposed method are compared with the results of standard model-based methods relying on the Eurocontrol Base of Aircraft DAta (BADA), using two months of radar track records and weather data.
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Richard Alligier, David Gianazza, Nicolas Durand. Learning the aircraft mass and thrust to improve the ground-based trajectory prediction of climbing flights. Transportation research. Part C, Emerging technologies, Elsevier, 2013, 36, pp 45-60. ⟨10.1016/j.trc.2013.08.006⟩. ⟨hal-00907651⟩

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