Cleaner flights, smaller footprint

A UNSW@ADFA researcher has been named as one of the 2008 Fresh Science winners, recognising his research into the environmental benefits of smarter air traffic control.

Aeroplane inside

Smarter air traffic control could save 500 kg of fuel and reduce airport noise by 35% for a typical Boeing 747 flight between Sydney and Melbourne, according to a team of ADFA researchers.

Sameer Alam was recently announced as one of the winners in the 2008 Fresh Science competition. The award recognises his unique air traffic simulator which produced these estimates and which is now being trialled with the support of Eurocontrol (the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation).

Alam, who developed the system with assistance from his colleagues at ADFA, hopes it will transform the management of airspace - saving fuel, reducing carbon emissions and reducing ground noise.

"Our system is the first in the world to integrate air traffic modelling with data and computations on aircraft noise and emissions," he says.

"It can simulate existing and advanced air traffic control procedures showing the resulting emission and noise patterns. In the future we expect that air traffic controllers would use the system to evaluate and modify flight paths to reduce noise and emissions.

"The Air Traffic and Operations Management Simulator (ATOMS) leads to a smarter, cleaner system of air traffic management."

According to Alam, one approach can lower fuel use and decrease emissions by flying aircraft on more direct paths at altitudes where the winds are most favourable, as opposed to following a fixed route structure. Another can significantly reduce the noise impact of landing aircraft on residential areas by keeping aircraft at higher altitudes on their approach to the airport and reducing power during descent.

"Our next big challenge is to translate the innovative air traffic procedures which emerged from the simulation into a form that is acceptable for operations.

"Introducing such new concepts into an operational environment is challenging given the complexity and dynamics of any air traffic system," he says.

Fresh Science is a national competition that identifies and promotes new and interesting research being done by early-career scientists.

Media Contact: Victoria Brown | 02 9385 3263 |