Dissemination of Aviation Weather Information

Background

Development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a national program designed to meet the expanding air transportation needs of the US in the 21st century, is well underway, with member agencies defining their needs for R&D and acquisitions.  Defining the weather information needs of NextGen and providing common weather-related decision information to all stakeholders within the system is an important element of the overarching program. Since weather conditions can seriously restrict aircraft operations and levels of service available to system users, the manner by which weather is observed, forecast, disseminated, and used in decision–making is of critical importance.

RAL's activity in dissemination of aviation weather information is focused in two areas:

  1. Common Support Services – Weather (CSS-Wx), developing next generation technology and infrastructure for dissemination of weather data to US Government and other users; and
  2. Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC), developing methods for making the best weather information available to pilots for decision-making in the cockpit.

Common Support Services – Weather (CSS-Wx) Program

Figure 1. Diagram of FAA NextGen Weather Architecture with CSS-Wx in a central role

Figure 1. Diagram of FAA NextGen Weather Architecture with CSS-Wx in a central role

RAL has been one of the key contributors in developing standards and technology for the FAA research and acquisition programs focused on weather in the NextGen.  This work, part of the FAA’s Common Support Services Weather (CSS-Wx) Program, is aimed at developing next generation technology and infrastructure for dissemination of weather data to FAA and other aviation users. It focuses on enabling ubiquitous access to aviation weather data anywhere an appropriate network connection is available.

CSS-Wx achieves its goal by using a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach in which existing Internet technology is leveraged to build weather data directory and delivery services that conform to international standards. CSS-Wx is combining a data directory service using OASIS ebXML Registry/Repository (Reg/Rep) standards with data servers based on the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Feature Service (WFS) and Web Coverage Service (WCS) standards. Using these technologies, it is possible to build complex, dynamic weather systems in which data sources and clients can be developed and modified independently but remain compatible while optimizing data latency and network bandwidth. RAL's participation in this program is sponsored by the FAA CSS-Wx Program Office and work is conducted collaboratively with the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center, MIT/Lincoln Laboratories, and NOAA.

FY2017 Accomplishments

In FY2017, the FAA CSS-Wx program has been proceeding with acquisition of the system through a contract to a commercial vendor for implementation and operational deployment of the CSS-Wx system in the FAA National Airspace System. The contractor has been heavily engaged in developing the software for CSS-Wx this year. Based on years of experience during the development of CSS-Wx program concepts and proof of concept prototypes, NCAR/RAL acts as a subject matter expert to the FAA advising the agency about technical issues related to the contractor’s development of the system.

In addition, RAL acted as the FAA’s technical expert and worked with experts from the Open Geospatial Consortium, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to establish new data service standards and weather data format standards. 

FY2018 Plans

The focus for FY208 is to continue supporting the FAA's acquisition process for CSS-Wx, including providing technical guidance to the FAA and the CSS-Wx commercial vendor. Next year, the focus of the acquisition will shift to testing of the system developed by the contractor. RAL will also continue its work on data service standards and weather data format standards in concert with the OGC, the ICAO and the WMO.

Weather Dissemination to the Flight Deck - 
Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC) Program

Figure 2. Examples of north relative and more effective runway relative wind depictions
Figure 2. Examples of north relative and more effective runway relative wind depictions

One of the programs led by the FAA's Aviation Weather Office (AWO) is Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC). RAL is engaged in an effort for WTIC to study the requirements and technologies that would enable pilots to gain the advantages inherent in the rapidly emerging world of mobile technologies, including both tablets and phones. In this project, referred to as MobileMet, RAL provided a comprehensive technology assessment of mobile devices for use in delivery of weather information to the cockpit. RAL also conducted a broad survey of the needs and expectations of users in relation to mobile devices for aviation weather delivery. In addition, RAL developed and delivered prototype application based on the user needs survey.

Figure 3. The Minimum Weather Service Recommendations Report
Figure 3. The Minimum Weather Service Recommendations Report

FY2017 Accomplishments

RAL collaborated with human factors researchers from the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute to complete the study of runway wind depictions. The result of the study was that the depiction with runway relative headwind/tail and crosswind shown explicitly was more effective for a pilot to comprehend. RAL also completed a report summarizing the results of previous research into specific minimum weather service recommendations for mobile device use in general aviation aircraft.

FY2018 Plans

In 2018, RAL will start a study of how to nullify the effect of the latency of data delivered and displayed on a mobile device in a general aviation aircraft. Currently, data like ground-based radar imagery is displayed and pilots use it for decision making without much awareness of the age (latency) of the data. The new study will explore the effectiveness of displaying short-term extrapolated radar data on a mobile device for pilot decision-making.