Dissemination of Aviation Weather Information


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

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), Web Coverage Service (WCS), and Web Map Service (WMS) 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.

FY2018 Accomplishments

In FY2018, 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.

NCAR/RAL has also been a key contributor to the coordination between NOAA and FAA subsystems of NextGen. Forecast model output generated at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) and weather observations from various existing subsystems are reformulated for dissemination through the CSS-Wx network. New software was developed and validated for bridging from Gridded Binary (GRIB2) datasets to netCDF and for converting Traditional Alphanumeric Code (TAC) streams into the Weather Information Exchange Model (WXXM).

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.

FY2019 Plans

The focus for FY2019 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. RAL expects to perform more complete operational system tests and implement solutions to technical issues as they are uncovered.  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. These new versions of the standards will improve interoperability of weather systems, but will require additional evaluation and integration.

Weather Dissemination To The Flight Deck - Weather Technology In The Cockpit (WTIC) Program

Figure 2.Example of variability depiction on  runway relative wind depictionsExample of variability depiction on 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.

FY2018 Accomplishments

Figure 3. Enhanced temporal resolution using the Virtual Volume radar scan processing approach

RAL collaborated with human factors researchers from the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute to complete a second study of runway wind depictions. The study examined pilot response time and situational awareness with an optimized landing wind depiction. RAL also completed a report summarizing the results of previous research into specific Minimum Weather Service Recommendations (MWSR) for mobile device use in general aviation aircraft.

A new study was begun to examine the potential benefits of presenting pilots with a radar depiction on a mobile device, forecasted to the current time. The goal is to reduce pilot error due to the latency involved in sending observed weather data in the cockpit. As part of this study, RAL researchers developed and validated a novel, “virtual volume,” approach to reducing radar processing time as well as forecasting cell growth and decay.

FY2019 Plans

In 2019, RAL will complete planning and testing software implementation for a pilot study to test the radar nulling technique developed in 2018. The results of that study will be combined with parallel studies conducted at the FAA, and incorporated into the Minimum Weather Service Recommendations report.