Since 1993, MicroStep-MIS has proved the capabilities of its automated weather observation systems by supplying meteorological information that is vital for effective air traffic management (ATM) in more than 300 airports worldwide. Together with the B4 Consortium, a group of air navigation service providers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia, the company is now contributing its technological expertise to the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project – the mechanism that coordinates and concentrates all relevant EU research and development (R&D) activities.

In particular, MicroStep-MIS is focusing on providing safety support tools for runway excursions, enhanced collaborative airport performance management, advanced automated aviation meteorology systems, and tools for managing and sharing trajectory data.

Weatherproofing airports

So far, the most notable advance MicroStep-MIS has made in these areas is the development of its airport runway weather information system (ARWIS). This tool enhances airport authorities’ awareness of present and forecast runway conditions by way of built-in runway sensors, weather sensors and other available sources like an on-board computed-braking action. After collecting data, the system processes it through a physical model while considering all possible variables to calculate the runway condition code, which can nonetheless be altered via manual intervention from the airport operator. Furthermore, the current runway surface condition can be processed with surface-condition and weather prediction models that predict future runway condition codes.

A dedicated human-machine interface is used to communicate all the relevant information to operators, making it possible to change the runway condition code or input extra information according to the results of manual inspections and maintenance procedures. Moreover, ARWIS assists airport operators by issuing alerts when runway conditions change or when inputs are missing.

In a validation exercise at Slovakia’s Poprad-Tatry Airport last year, the system increased the operator’s situational awareness and short-term prediction capabilities for a variety of weather conditions. In doing so, ARWIS contributed to safety and resilience in adverse weather, helping to optimise runway inspections and treatment management.

MicroStep-MIS has developed an automated meteorological system – a unique way to mitigate the drawbacks of automated weather observation systems (AWOS). Current automated meteorological aerodrome reports (AUTOMETARs) show some weather elements in simplified forms and can omit others completely. In contrast, the new system enables enhanced observation of clouds, visibility, and other weather phenomena using integrated visible light and infrared camera imagery.

This is done in two ways. In the first instance, a human meteorological observer – who can be based at a remote location – receives weather data from standard AWOS sensors, and extra camera images of the sky and horizon. This individual uses these to add extra information through a dedicated interface (by marking which points are visible on the horizon to estimate horizontal visibility as well as directional variations) before the information is conveyed in an AUTOMETAR. In the absence of a human observer, the system uses artificial intelligence to processes the camera images of sky and horizon before issuing an AUTOMETAR.

Exercise in validation

MicroStep-MIS has also completed a validation exercise for this system. Three months of data collection and parallel reporting from a meteorological aerodrome report by official observers; an AUTOMETAR produced from AWOS data only; and an AUTOMETAR from the advanced automated meteorological system have shown considerable improvement over other automated solutions at little extra cost.

The other solutions being developed by MicroStep-MIS are yet to be run through full validation exercises. Even so, the company is developing a decision support system to detect and probabilistically forecast when meteorological thresholds for airport operations may be exceeded. The system can then assist in reducing weather impacts by running predefined candidate solutions for specific adverse-weather situations. This is done by combining data from various information services in SESAR’s standardised system wide information management (SWIM) format. MicroStep-MIS is focused on continuing to use this approach in its other solutions. It is another example of how MicroStep-MIS’s specific commitment to the collaborative work of SESAR is helping to improve European ATM.