How Austria Became a Pioneer in Refined Weather Forecast for Aviation

Intensive research and development activities have provided a competitive edge in the application of image analysis methods for improved aviation weather data.

The research field "Air Traffic Management and Weather", ATM & Weather for short, unites outstanding competencies of Austrian stakeholders from research, development and implementation.
Austro Control, which is responsible for safety throughout Austrian airspace, operates the aviation weather service. As both a provider and a user, they are familiar with the problems and also value the excellent cooperation with research consortia. One of the partners is, for instance, Dr Ganster's group from the field of image analysis and measuring systems of the institute DIGITAL of the JOANNEUM RESEARCH. Furthermore, the competence of the Autonomous Systems department of the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT in the field of 3D environment sensors and image processing algorithms is equally important. The company Meteoserve transfers scientific developments into meteorological applications. And Flightkeys offers solutions for flight planning and optimisation, knows the airlines' point of view and their economic perspectives. The research group Aerospace Research of the University of Salzburg under Prof. Rokitansky, an internationally highly regarded competence centre, is also engaged in the optimisation of international air traffic.

The ATM & Weather field of expertise can be encapsulated by the following Innovation Booster.

Innovation BoosterImage Analysis of Weather Data Makes Air Traffic Foreseeable

A good 40-50,000 minutes of delays in air traffic are caused by thunderstorms at Vienna International Airport each year; one minute costs around 80 EUR. Efficient weather management for air traffic control saves costs, time and hassle for all the parties involved. Improved forecasting methods allow the accurate prediction of weather phenomena and safe and conflict-free air traffic planning.

The experts from Austro Control, JOANNEUM RESEARCH and the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT got to know each other through the COMET project. Joint considerations on the potential of image processing for weather radar data analysis led to a self-funded study by Austro Control. This was the beginning of many years of successful research and development cooperation. Indeed, the improvement of weather radar images is a key factor for the accurate analysis and prediction of weather phenomena and weather conditions, which is an essential factor for the work of air traffic controllers. It is especially beneficial that the flight meteorology and air traffic management in Austria are united in one company (Austro Control). This facilitates problem solving and improves communication channels. Research is conducted on sophisticated methods for improving weather forecasts, their automation and plausibility checks, as well as quantifying the value added.

This is unique:

  • Pioneer in the support of meteorology through image analysis
  • Meteorology and Air Traffic Management united in one company
  • Two patents

Therein lies development potential:

  • Artificial intelligence methods application
  • Integration of further camera and sensor technologies

A holistic consideration across all stakeholders is extremely important!

Markus Kerschbaum (Austro Control)