University of Nottingham > School of Computer Science > Automated Scheduling Planning and Optimisation > Air Transportation Research

Departure sequencing @ LHR

(2003 - 2007)

Helping runway controllers to get low delay schedules that reduce delays and pollution

London Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world and has more international passengers than any other airport. Scheduling arrivals and departures from the two runways are complex problems, but ones which are solved manually by runway controllers in the control towers. Although the controllers perform excellently (simulations indicate that delays would be over four times as long without the re-sequencing performed by the controllers), with up to one take-off a minute there is insufficient time for controllers to consider all possible good take-off sequences. Funded by EPSRC and NATS (formerly National Air traffic Services) Ltd, through the Smith Institute for Industrial Mathematics and System Engineering, the ASAP group have been working with NATS to investigate the feasibility of harnessing the power and flexibility of modern optimisation techniques to provide accurate advice to controllers. The aim is to provide the controllers with the information which is necessary to allow them to reduce delay even further. This involves considering not only the value of a take-off sequence, but also whether it can be attained and how hard the manoeuvring on the ground would be to attain it. The challenge for such a decision support system is not only to provide accurate advice, but also to do so quickly enough to be able to respond immediately to situational changes at this popular and busy airport.