Published on 23-May-2011
Validated on 18 Dec 2012
Aerospace & Defense
IBM Research, Smarter Planet
With its existing air traffic management systems already near capacity, the FAA and other federal agencies recognize that meeting tomorrow’s demands requires a fundamental change in the management of air surveillance data and the technology that makes it possible.
A major U.S. aircraft manufacturer needed to help federal agencies adapt their air surveillance capabilities to support a broader, 10-year transformation strategy.
The manufacturer engaged with IBM to create a first-of-a-kind, real-time messaging platform able to meet the diverse quality-of-service requirements of federal agencies across wide areas. Sharing real-time aircraft sensing data across agencies enables the coordinated decision-making required to manage tomorrow’s denser air traffic environment. The project has demonstrated how officials from multiple organizations can have more timely, consistent and complete information to resolve fast-changing or unpredictable aviation events.
More efficient, precise and cost-effective air traffic management capability in the future Improved decision-making capabilities across all agencies that leverage air surveillance data Improved ability to accommodate future air traffic growth Ability to respond faster to potential threats or safety issues Ability to enable higher density air traffic operations while improving air travel safely Fewer delays due to improved system resiliency through performance-aware routing and multipath message delivery
Let's build a smarter planet
|Orchestrating more crowded airspace with precision|
|A major U.S. aircraft manufacturer needed to help federal agencies adapt their air surveillance capabilities to support a broader, 10-year transformation strategy.|
|The manufacturer engaged with IBM to create a first-of-a-kind, real-time messaging platform able to meet the diverse quality-of-service requirements of federal agencies across wide areas. Sharing real-time aircraft sensing data across agencies enables the coordinated decision-making required to manage tomorrow’s denser air traffic environment. The project has demonstrated how officials from multiple organizations can have more timely, consistent and complete information to resolve fast-changing or unpredictable aviation events.|
|Smarter Transportation: Increased safety through shared situation awareness|
|Instrumented||The NEO solution captures real-time air domain information from multiple ground-based and airborne sensors.|
|Interconnected||Via publish-subscribe technology, NEO shares real-time air surveillance data with multiple agency endpoints at required QoS.|
|Intelligent||Real-time sharing of information across agencies enables more precise flight coordination, increased air traffic density and improved air travel safety.|
If you think the skies are crowded today, just wait. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects today’s air traffic volume—some 50,000 flights per day—to double or triple by 2025. It’s hard to imagine the daunting task of controlling air traffic getting much more complex than it is today, but that’s exactly what the FAA foresees. Its challenge will be to coordinate far more flights within the same limited airspace without compromising safety or on-time performance. With its existing air traffic management systems already near capacity, the FAA and other federal agencies recognize that meeting tomorrow’s demands requires a fundamental change in the management of air surveillance data and the technology that makes it possible.
To provide a foundation for this change, a number of federal agencies are working to develop a broad-based air-domain management initiative known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen. The central thrust of NextGen is a shift in the way aircraft are tracked from ground-based radar to satellite-based tracking, as well as the integration of digital information from a wide variety of sources, including GPS, weather data and other relevant information. By enabling more granular air surveillance through the broader use of sensing technologies, NextGen will give federal agencies the means to orchestrate air-traffic with more precision, allowing aircraft to fly closer to each other and more directly without compromising safety.
Toward a future of surveillance data sharing
In addition to transforming air traffic management, the FAA and other agency stakeholders also saw an opportunity to extend the abundance of information generated by NextGen to other government functions that depend on air surveillance information, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. As part of an offshoot program known as Joint Network Enabled Operations (NEO), the FAA—in conjunction with a major U.S. aircraft manufacturer—sought to create a single, unified communication platform for distributing surveillance information to these and other agencies. Adapting and transporting information between heterogeneous wide-area networks was just the beginning of the technical issues that needed to be addressed by the aircraft manufacturer. The bigger challenge was ensuring that each communication link could be tailored to deliver a guaranteed quality of service from end to end, in proportion to the underlying criticality of the message. In essence, when it comes to responding to split-second, life or death decisions—such as a suspicious aircraft or a potential collision—“best effort” message delivery isn’t good enough.
To address this challenge, the aircraft manufacturer turned to IBM, whose first-of-a-kind research in the area of performance-aware routing and multipath resilient message delivery was closely aligned with the demanding NEO requirements set down by the FAA. Staff from IBM Research and IBM Software Group developed a significant advancement to the existing messaging platform known (currently) as R3 (responsive, reliable and real-time) Messaging and used it to create a successful proof-of-concept for use within the NEO program. Developed as an overlay network extending the advanced enterprise service bus capabilities of IBM® WebSphere® Message Broker, R3 Messaging is the first solution to enable real-time wide-area messaging with a guaranteed quality of service.
Directing traffic intelligently
Conceptually, the aircraft manufacturer’s NEO solution—exploiting IBM WebSphere Message Broker with R3 Messaging—can be thought of as a mail carrier, train conductor, telephone switchboard operator and traffic police officer, all rolled into one, synchronizing nationwide—or even worldwide—logistics. Its function is to ensure that each message is delivered over an end-to-end pathway that meets all necessary criteria. Taking into account each message’s specific latency requirement as well as security parameters, R3 Messaging looks at each node across the network and applies algorithms to determine the best paths over which to route the message. In the event a selected path becomes unavailable due to node or link failure, R3 Messaging’s multipathing capability enables messages to be continuously delivered through other independent communication paths and ensures that one and only one message gets delivered—on time.
The genesis of R3 Messaging can be traced to earlier research initiatives aimed at extending the capabilities of wide area messaging to meet the needs of a more real-time, instrumented world. With increasingly interconnected networks relying on real-time data to trigger critical processes—IBM messaging experts saw that traditional enterprise systems were insufficient to meet the high quality-of-service standards this accelerating trend will require. Two separate research projects within IBM proved highly relevant in closing the gap. The first is a message transport system jointly developed by IBM Software Group and IBM Research that enables the creation of real-time publish/subscribe message domains with a prescribed quality-of-service supporting topic-based predictive qualities of service between the publishers and subscribers in the domain. The second is a messaging control plane, developed by the Messaging and Event Systems group within IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, which establishes and continuously maintains the optimal route to meet each message’s quality-of-service requirements. R3 Messaging represents the melding of these complementary capabilities.
Having successfully tested and built a prototype application that demonstrates the capabilities of R3 Messaging in support of NEO, the aircraft manufacturer sees it as a critical component of its future vision of the solution and the principles of joint operations embodied in the NextGen initiative—the most important of which is the use of shared data to develop shared airspace situational awareness. Within such a solution, air surveillance information can be shared with predictable and dependable quality-of-service on a publish-subscribe basis, with IBM WebSphere Message Broker and R3 Messaging used to federate the different domains that will participate in the NEO system. While WebSphere Message Broker performs necessary cross-domain data transformations, R3 Messaging enforces quality-of-service requirements for latency and security to establish a flexible and resilient series of pathways. In the event of a server or existing route failure or diminished performance, the message will be routed—seamlessly and invisibly—via the next available pathway.
Integrated data, better decisions
Aircraft surveillance information is used to support an astonishing number of important decisions. Air traffic controllers need to monitor and guide aircraft to ensure air safety at all points in a flight. NASA needs to ensure that its air space is clear if a rocket is scheduled to launch. The Department of Homeland Security needs to detect aircraft involved in potentially threatening and/or illicit activities such as terrorism or smuggling. The Department of Defense needs to coordinate a wide range of military flights in commercial airspace. While all of these decisions are important, there are large variances in the time required to communicate the underlying information to message endpoints, ranging from seconds to minutes.
The ability of the aircraft manufacturer’s NEO solution to tailor latency levels between each of these endpoints is a major breakthrough because it enables all the agencies that need air situation awareness information to share it more reliably and efficiently. That’s a major reason why the program manager for the aircraft manufacturer’s Joint Network Enabled Operations Program sees IBM R3 Messaging as uniquely positioned to provide the foundation for the more precise, sophisticated and rapid decision-making that will be needed to keep up with rising air traffic volumes, as well as the need to provide air domain information more efficiently, without compromising safety. “R3 Messaging is directly applicable to the work we do in aviation information management,” says the program manager. “It provides capabilities that we need.”
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Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
WebSphere Message Broker
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