Rensselaer Polytech Institute, one of the top tech universities in the US, has received a three-year $ 325,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop “Virtual Sky”, a prototype platform to fuse and analyze flight sensor data correctly, reliably, and quickly, and to share sensor data among airplanes in flight.
Virtual Sky will be like an infrastructure on top of which applications will be built, according to Carlos Varela, one of the computer scientists leading the project and a licensed pilot.
Stacy Patterson, the other scientist on the project adds: “The challenge is that an “internet of airplanes” is a dynamic environment, with airplanes moving in multiple dimensions, directions, and speeds, and with varying connectivity.”
“Airplanes are not able to exchange information with other planes for long periods of time, so you have to make smart decisions about what information you’re going to send when you have that little window of opportunity,” Patterson said. “We also have to decide how to integrate the information to give pilots a unified view that says that these are the flight conditions around you based on all the information we have available.”Stacy Patterson
Although some air traffic control elements are already on “Next Gen” systems, there is still a lot of information that depends on pilot observation and radio communication.
Ultimately, said Varela and Patterson, Virtual Sky is about giving pilots better information to make better decisions. The researchers will test the system with pilots on a flight simulator.