January 29, 2013 inxweb

Applying Resilience Studies to Real World ATM Challenges at Innaxis

Our newest team member, Hector Ureta, tells us what it has been like working at the Innaxis Research Foundation and Institute in his first 6 months, and the evolving application of the concept of resilience beyond its original roots.

In some weeks I will reach my “semiversary” at Innaxis – a reference the team here make to the milestone of reaching a half year tenure. I am very proud to be working with the super-professional team here and felt it was time to contribute to the team’s blog and share my experience at the organisation so far. One of the things that attracted me to Innaxis, and that I have found very rewarding at the organisation, is our work in applying the concepts of resilience to ATM.

During my Aeronautical degree ‘resilience’ was described as the ability of a system to recover under abnormal conditions, generally in regards to material properties. The term usually appeared in subjects together with defining terms such as “Structures”, “Materials” or similar. Studying those subjects involved repetitive exercises that required the analysis and calculation of permanent and transient deformations after a given stress. We were required to repeat the same exercises again, this time with software, such as Catia, after some basic programming sizing the material, specifying its properties and the stress held. In short, its application and study was fairly limited.

Air Traffic, or simply ATM when referring to Air Traffic Management, was challenging in a different way, but was studied under completely different, distinct, subjects. Despite the economic crisis, airspace demand in Europe continues to grow, which lead to a focus on efficiency as the main goal of resources usage and management.

It is nice to learn new things every once in a while…[especially] when that learning takes the form of adapting previous knowledge acquired in a completely new way to a different field

My collegue Alberto wrote in his post on this blog, “It is nice to learn new things every once in a while”. I would like to add my wholehearted agreement to that sentiment and that this holds particularly true when that learning takes the form of adapting previous knowledge acquired in a completely new way to a different field. While studying, I could never imagine myself applying the material Resilience concept to ATM. Today, I not only see the clear connection but also recognise a knowledge gap and opportunity for advancement in better developing this concept within ATM. Resilience, not just efficiency, offers great opportunities to improve ATM performance.

The Air Traffic system is of a complex nature, with huge amounts of technical systems and human operators involved. Operating close to 100% efficiency, in the view of the majority of my ATM Professors, makes the ATM system sensitive to disturbances and thus vulnerable to disturbances outside our control. The complexity of the system amplifies the problem, augmenting the impact of disturbances on their way through the different ATM layers. However, over sized system buffers would decrease efficiency to unacceptable levels. Hence, a balance between efficiency on the one hand and resilience on the other is required.

Working together as a team in search of ATM Resilience is a truly wonderful and unique experience

Innaxis is leading an ongoing FP7 collaborative project  “Resilience2050” regarding these issues. The main aim is to achieve a deeper knowledge of the  resilience concept in ATM in pursuit of a more efficient and resilient future in ATM systems. Working directly with this project is challenging, interesting and has given me the opportunity to work with an exciting international consortium of world-wide  experts, not only in the Resilience concept applied to other, non-ATM, systems, but also in data mining. This team incorporates experts from academia, ATCos and top-class aviation research centers, from countries as diverse as Germany, The Netherlands, Turkey, England and Spain. Working together as a team in search of ATM Resilience is a truly wonderful and unique experience and I hope to share some of those experiences with you in posts over the coming months as we continue to address the challenges of the task and encounter both highs and lows.

I hope you have been resilient enough to reach this blog post end, Thank you all! Hector

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