NASA's new software could save time and fuel on flights

NASA’s new software designed to trim time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, is about to be tested on commercial flights.

According to the agency, the Traffic Aware Planner application will connect directly into the avionics information hub on the aircraft and will read the current position, altitude, flight route and other information, then looks for path and altitude changes that can save time and fuel.

In addition, the application can connect with a plane’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast receiver to scan signals of nearby traffic to avoid conflicts during flight path changes. TAP can also use a plane’s Internet connectivity to access real-time weather, wind forecast updates and restricted update status.

TAP was initially tested by pilots in flight simulators and then twice on test flights. According to NASA, the system worked well on its initial test flight, identifying a route change that cut four minutes off the flight time, which could result in massive fuel and time savings when more widely implemented. The application will be tested over the next three years by Virgin America and Alaska Airlines.

Developers say the system will not affect the roles of pilots or air traffic controllers, which should allow for faster implementation.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.


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