“NLR is directly involved in fundamental research, including in a pan-European context such as in the SESAR programme,” says Bern Stegeman. “We have the full package: a real-time simulator, fast-time simulation capabilities, and the expertise of our departments operating in related fields like safety, environmental protection, human factors and training. This makes our approach unique in the world
NLR’s Air Traffic Management & Airports department serves as a bridge between fundamental research and support for the organizations that provide air traffic control services 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Consequently, the staff members of this ATM department not only know a great deal about the latest research, but also about air traffic control. “We develop new concepts, algorithms and tools which are evaluated and assessed together with air traffic controllers and pilots. We also provide support for training courses to familiarize users with new concepts and systems.”
Vercammen mentions the importance of NARSIM for research projects: “There are not many research simulators of this kind worldwide, and NLR can test, assess and validate new tools and concepts using fast prototyping – all in collaboration with an active community.” Stegeman indicates that the simulations serve more than just theoretical purposes – colleagues using the research facility have developed versions of products themselves, such as an electronic flight strip system. “We know how controllers use such a system, and we are familiar with the entire process from development through to testing and roll-out. That truly provides added value,” says Stegeman. After a tool has been fully developed and successfully validated, the requirements are derived. “Based on those requirements, the industry can then implement the new tooling at ATC organizations,” says Vercammen. Stegeman: “We develop up to approximately Technology Readiness Level 6 or 7. For example, we worked on a runway incursion alerting system up to the prototype phase. That’s where our strength lies. We can develop a concept quickly; it has to be stable in operation and be testable. That’s the whole aim of the system: to develop new functionality in a relatively short period of time.”
NLR provides support for airspace optimization because it has in-house experts that can carry out macro-optimizations. “Such optimizations often yield various options. Our team includes researchers who are also pilots, and who can perform airspace tests of the various options using our own test aircraft or flght simulators,” says Vercammen.