New partnership with Qantas will mean smarter flying
The University of Sydney and Qantas have entered into a four-year partnership to develop a flight planning system that will help the airline fly optimised routes, reduce fuel consumption and improve operational effectiveness.
The Qantas Future Flight Planning Project (QFFPP) follows closely on the tail of a successful pilot program that targeted the development and demonstration of a prototype commercial aviation flight-planning system.
Professor Salah Sukkarieh, the Australian Centre for Field Robotics' (ACFR) Director of Research and Innovation, says the commencement of the QFFPP punctuated a decade of research in the area of flight planning and control, and multi-vehicle coordination and optimisation.
"Our initial work looked at how aerodynamics, flight mechanics, large-scale optimisation and machine learning algorithms can be used to design better flight planning routines and fuel prediction models.
"We believe this will help pave the way for optimised flight routes that will improve operational efficiency for Qantas - complementing its existing focus on new navigation technology - and support greener commercial aviation," says Professor Sukkarieh.
The agreement with the University will look at further developing the system as well as conduct new research into operational factors such as weather avoidance and traffic flow. The project will support six research fellows and up to 10 PhD students.
Professor Sukkarieh says overall the system is the first of its kind in the world, offering Qantas a suite of algorithms that are custom made to Qantas' operation and that will support its future needs.
Qantas' Head of Operations Support, Peter Broschofsky, said the partnership would help Qantas build on its strong record of innovation through technology deployment in flight operations.
"We are delighted to be working with the University of Sydney on a project that is at the cutting-edge of aviation technology research," Mr Broschofsky said. "We expect the QFFPP will replace our current flight planning systems in around four years and, coupled with new aircraft and ground technology, bring about significant improvements in Qantas' operational efficiency.
"More efficient flying is an operational priority for Qantas - it will help us improve our performance for our customers and reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions. The system being developed by Professor Sukkarieh is in keeping with Qantas' longstanding commitment to smarter technologies such as Required Navigation Performance, where we are an industry leader."
The prototype system was based on the latest research in stochastic optimisation and planning and implemented in software using data supplied by Qantas. The system combined all the relevant aerodynamic, route profile and aircraft performance into the optimisation algorithms that were based on Dynamic Programming principles, and demonstrated greater accuracy and provided enhanced operational effectiveness.
The ACFR is based in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies at the University of Sydney and is dedicated to the scientific advancement of robotics and intelligent systems. Professor Salah Sukkarieh is a former mechatronic engineering student at the University of Sydney. He completed his PhD in avionic systems and his research has been dedicated to the development of innovative algorithms and software solutions to bring about intelligent aerospace platforms and systems.