NASA has delivered a new NextGen software tool to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to help air traffic controllers (ATC) speed up aircraft departure.

Developed by aeronautical researchers at NASA, the Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC) is designed to help ATCs improve the overall air traffic management (ATM) efficiency by reducing missed or delayed departures, while increasing aircraft departures within a specified timeframe.

According to tests conducted by NASA since 2011, the new software would help fill around 80% of slots in the constant overhead stream of air traffic that typically remains vacant due to timing issues.

NASA’s Airspace Systems Program director John Cavolowsky said: "We call those ‘missed opportunities,’ and with PDRC working in concert with other tools the FAA has available, we hope to better take advantage of all the opportunities to safely make flying more efficient."

PDRC’s surface model component will precisely predict both departure times and departure runways with the data automatically sent to en route centres, which would then offer ascent trajectories for aircraft to join the high-altitude traffic stream.

NASA has previously provided technology to FAA, the Efficient Descent Advisor (EDA), which would help ATCs better handle incoming traffic and reduce delays and avoid flight path conflicts.

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Image: FAA’s Pam Whitley and David Grizzle with NASA’s Jaiwon Shin during transfer of PDRC to the national aviation authority. Photo: courtesy of NASA / Maria Werries.