The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

CSUN awarded $275,000 grant

CSUN was awarded a $275,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the Federal Aviation Agency to develop technology that researchers say would better monitor an increase in air passenger traffic and cargo control.

Researchers say the grant, funded through the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System program, will support the research of mechanical engineering and human factors faculty members and students until 2010.

When developed, the more efficient air traffic control technology will enable the system to “delegate new roles and responsibilities for air traffic controllers and pilots,” said assistant mechanical engineering professor Nhut Ho, who is the head of the research conducted at CSUN.

“Pilots have different objectives than air traffic controllers,” Ho said.

Researchers are analyzing the objectives to see how both sides can work more efficiently together with a new air traffic control system, Ho said.

Barry Berson, a part-time psychology lecturer who is working with Ho, said, “We bring the methodology for doing the research studies.”

“We’re doing analysis on what are the information and control requirements needed,” said Berson, who works at Lockheed Martin.

The research team’s lab is also connected to NASA, Boeing, and other universities so that the distributed controlled simulations can mimic the actual operations, and the findings will be used by NASA in the development of new air traffic technology.

Ian Gregor, a FAA representative for the Western-Pacific region, said the project, which will cost about $15 to $22 billion, is set to be completed by 2025, at which time, passenger air traffic is expected to have doubled.

Air traffic controllers are responsible for the navigation of air traffic. Gregor said the research will help provide pilots with more visibility in the air and allow them to be less reliant on the ground-based controllers.

“Pilots are going to be able to play a role in keeping themselves safely separated from other aircraft,” Gregor said. “Right now, air traffic controllers have all (those) responsibilities.”

Aircraft rely on a radar-based system to alert pilots if there are other planes in their vicinity, but the technology doesn’t provide exact coordinates of the other aircraft.

The university’s research will help produce a program based on the Global Positioning System and three-dimensional imagery that gives pilots more specifics on their location, along with the position of other aircraft, the researchers say.

Controllers need to “build a safety bubble” around aircraft to ensure their safety, Gregor said. But with a GPS-based navigation system, controllers can put more airplanes in the sky and use air space more efficiently.

“We’re going to reduce the safety bubble to fit more aircraft in the sky,” Gregor said.

Today’s aircraft are using a system that’s outdated, Gregor and Ho said.

“The equipment we’re using is perfectly safe, but it’s not as efficient,” Gregor said

The radar technology is 40 or 50 years old, but the equipment itself is new.”

GPS will also allow for more direct flights and with fewer stops, less fuel will be burned, resulting in environmental benefits, said Gregor.

The new systems will also allow situational awareness, automation, and the usage of data communication between controllers and pilots instead of relying on radio, which presents problems because of the limited number of frequencies or the chance of interference and miscommunication, said Ho.

“These systems allow controllers on the ground to send a text message to pilots,” said Ho, “which will reduce the possibilities of audio error.”

It will also have the capability to assess situations that include other aircraft’s flight paths and the weather and provide solutions to problems that may arise, Ho said, and pilots can act on the program’s suggestions or choose to reject them.

Ultimately, both Ho and Berson hope that projects will give students real world experience and opportunities.

“We want to push the boundaries of knowledge,” Ho said.

Lusine Carlsson, a former grad student who received her master’s degree in human factors, worked with both professors on the NGATS project last year and was offered a job from Lockheed as a human factors engineer as a result of her involvement in the project. Carlsson generated research reports, which included measuring situational awareness and mission analysis, she said. “It cannot get any more hands-on than this,” Carlsson said. “There’s nothing like feeling the pressure on your skin (to finish reports) and to hear that they accepted (your findings) is really rewarding.”

“The professors were “very willing to allow me as a student to be way more involved than any other institution,” Carlsson said.

Do you have more to say than a comment? Want any feedback from the writer? Story ideas? Click on The Gripevine.

More to Discover