Applying FX Connect to the Prototype Aviation by gjg97952



                      Applying FX Connect to the Prototype Aviation Collaborative Effort
                              at the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center

                                          Dennis M. Rodgers*
                            NOAA OAR Forecast Systems Laboratory, Boulder, CO

                                               Thomas Amis
                            National Weather Service, Center Weather Service Unit
                                           Fort Worth, TX 76115

1. Introduction                                            decision makers.

Adverse weather conditions, especially those               Further progress toward achieving a more weather-
associated with thunderstorms, contribute                  responsive air traffic system depends upon a joint
significantly to disruptions in air traffic operations     FAA and NWS commitment that places increased
within the National Airspace System (NAS). The             emphasis on emerging science and technology
effects extend to every sector of the aviation             applied to aviation weather forecasting. The FAA is
community and take the form of delays, re-routes,          actively working toward establishing a more
trip cancellations, and most importantly, a reduced        definitive set of requirements for weather forecast
margin of operating safety. When coupled with the          information. Weather information needs of the
dramatic growth throughout the industry, hazardous         ARTCC Traffic Management Unit (TMU) are
weather encounters are severely taxing an already          described in a 1999 document (F.A.A., 1999),
overburdened air traffic management system.                forming the basis for a formal requirements
Projections are for industry growth to outpace             document anticipated to be completed by 2003.
improvements to the traffic management system              When completed and mutually agreed upon by the
over the next five years.                                  NWS and FAA, the resulting weather requirements
                                                           document will provide a starting point from which
In 1978, the FAA and NWS established the Center            the NWS can launch appropriate initiatives aimed at
Weather Service Unit (CWSU) Program, placing               satisfying these requirements.
NWS meteorologists in FAA Air Route Traffic
Control Centers (ARTCCs). This program was                 2. PACE
initiated by the FAA as a result of an NTSB
recommendation based on the findings from a                The purpose of the Prototype Aviation Collaborative
Southern Airways crash in north Georgia. This              Effort (PACE) is to design an operational test for
NWS meteorological support is designed to improve          demonstrating and evaluating the effective
aviation safety and enhance the efficient flow of air      employment of developing science, technology and
traffic by the continual forecasting and monitoring of     computer communication interfaces (N.W.S., 2002).
adverse weather. The effectiveness of this                 The PACE facility will initially develop a focused
meteorological support is dependent upon the               range of high-resolution forecast products
CWSU forecaster maintaining a close coordination           specifically tailored to the ARTCC air traffic
with air traffic managers whose decisions affect the       environment. PACE will build upon knowledge and
flow of traffic through the NAS. FAA personnel             experience gained from ongoing operations and
need the best available weather information to             testing, such as the Collaborative Convective
facilitate their mission of supporting aviation            Forecast Product (CCFP; A.W.C., 2002). It is
operations. The CWSU program has developed                 anticipated that an initial suite of graphical products
slowly, and not until the latter quarter of the 90's did   will consist of convective forecasts followed by a
the CWSUs begin to receive newer technology that           phased approach to include icing, turbulence,
would enable the meteorologist to provide higher           ceiling and visibility products based on
resolution forecasts and advisories to air traffic         requirements to be outlined by the FAA. Fort Worth

Corresponding author address: Dennis M. Rodgers,
NOAA/OAR/FSL, R/FS5, 325 Broadway, Boulder,
CO 80305-3328; email:
ARTCC and FAA Southwest Region Headquarters                display system with collaborative capabilities, and is
officials have agreed to allow the use of their facility   a main component of the PACE prototyping
in the CWSU workspace to conduct PACE                      environment (F.S.L., 2002). A unique feature of
activities, with the condition that PACE activities do     FXC is that it can accommodate the interaction of
not negatively impact CWSU operations. PACE,               forecasters at different locations through a graphical
initiated by NWS Southern Region Headquarters, is          user interface. When connected to an AWIPS
a coordinated interagency effort involving the Fort        server, FXC allows the display of D2D data and
Worth CWSU, Houston CWSU, NWS Southern                     imagery over which graphics may be created,
Region Headquarters, FAA Southwest Region                  manipulated, and viewed by remotely located
Headquarters, and the Forecast Systems                     collaboration participants. Although the AWIPS
Laboratory. Additional participants may include            database is the primary and most extensive source
other adjacent CWSUs, and the Aviation Weather             of data, FXC can also obtain data (in image form)
Center (AWC).                                              from Web servers and integrate data from other
                                                           sources. The local data integration capability is
The primary goal of PACE is to establish                   restricted at this time to display of surface data that
procedures to generate automated guidance                  has been stored in netCDF format. Details of FXC
products, share common data sets among                     architecture may be obtained in Grote and Golden,
operational units, and demonstrate how the                 2002.
employment of collaborative forecasting
methodologies can lead to improvements in aviation         The FXC system consists of two major
forecast products. This process will begin with the        components: the client component that allows the
development of thunderstorm forecast products              user to display and interact with meteorological
formatted for use by the TMU.                              data, and the servers that are responsible to
                                                           provide various types of data to the client. In some
The specific objectives of PACE are 1) Define a            special cases the client and servers reside on the
methodology, and produce automated forecast                same machine.
products. 2) Establish a methodology for state-of-
the-art collaboration technology, for promoting an         The FXC server comprises a collection of servers:
exchange of meteorological information among               Depictable Server, Scribble Server, Chat Server,
several operational elements. 3) Demonstrate the           Baseline Server, Point Server, Dispatch Server, and
utility of collaboration to achieve more accurate and      File Monitor. The Depictable Server is responsible
consistent forecast products. 4) Establish                 for interfacing with the AWIPS software and
methodology for use of the collaboration technology        exporting graphic products. It must therefore be
from FX Connect. 5) Verify results of the forecast         hosted on a machine that has direct access to the
products for use in an air traffic management              AWIPS database and is able to run the AWIPS 5.0
system.                                                    (or later) software. The Depictable Server satisfies
                                                           all user requests for image or graphic products.
Initial PACE exploratory development will be               The location of the Scribble Server and other
directed to prototyping graphical thunderstorm             servers is more flexible and it is anticipated that in
forecast products combining the National                   the future FXC may actually reassign these servers
Convective Weather Forecast (NCWF; Mueller, et.            automatically if the hosts fail. During a collaborative
al., 2000), the Convective SIGMET, and the CCFP.           session each server communicates with the clients
The NCWF provides an analysis of convective                independently, i.e., it does not broadcast the data to
hazards with a 1-h forecast of storm positions             all clients. As a result, some degradation in
updated every 5 minutes; the Convective SIGMET             performance may occur when a large number of
is a 2-h forecast of significant thunderstorms             clients are connected for a collaborative session.
updated hourly; and the CCFP produces forecasts
of significant thunderstorms at 2, 4, and 6 hours,         FXC clients are usually located remotely. In order
updated every 4 hours. By combining these                  for a client to connect to a server the user selects
products in a graphical display, the TMU could be          the desired server from the FXC menu. Once the
provided with an automated, frequently updated 0-6         connection is made to the server, the client has
hour thunderstorm forecast.                                access to most of the AWIPS database at the host
                                                           office. Some menu item and table changes are
3. FX Connect                                              necessary to add additional AWIPS products to the
                                                           FXC user interface as required by the specific
FX Connect (FXC) is a real-time meteorological             application of FXC.
FXC is a Java 1.3 application that incorporates        FXC features include the conventional capabilities
Remote Method Invocation (RMI) and is multi-           of:
threaded. FXC executes on PCs running Win95,               • Display of diverse data sets (images,
Win98, WinNT, Win2000, and Linux; and on                      observations, and text);
Macintosh G3 Powerbooks running Yellow Dog                 • Interactive display manipulation (zoom,
Linux. Recommended machine attributes include 1               pan, toggle overlays, overlay color);
GHz cpu speed, 1 GB RAM, and 20 GB or larger               • Interactive display generation (cross
disk. A network connection (DSL, ISDN, or                     sections, time series, time/height, model
Ethernet) is also necessary. FXC is able to retrieve          soundings);
processed data from an AWIPS database, web                 • Extensive manual graphic and annotation
server, and local databases. The performance of               tools;
the software varies with the hardware configuration        • Display procedures.
and operating system. The Java VM
implementation for Windows appears to be the           Advanced capabilities of FXC include:
most efficient and dependable.                            • Slide creation and presentation;
                                                          • Chat capability;
FXC has three basic operational modes: local,
                                                          • Internet access to WWW products
remote, and collaborative.
                                                          • Display of radar data from any WSR-88D
   • Local Mode - In local mode, the client is not
        connected to any AWIPS server. However,
                                                          • Creation and display of JPEG images;
        the user does have access to selected data
        from remote Web servers and possibly              • Local (independent) or collaborative mode
        some local data. This mode is useful for             of operation.
        preparing briefing displays that do not
        require real-time data.                        FXC will be used in PACE to explore methodologies
                                                       for promoting an efficient exchange of
   • Remote Mode - In remote mode the user is
                                                       meteorological information and collaboration in the
        connected to an AWIPS server that the
                                                       development and production of new briefing
        user has selected from the FXC menu. This
                                                       products for TMU decision makers. One of the key
        allows the user to access real-time
                                                       features of FXC is the ability to annotate
        meteorological data at the remote server.
                                                       meteorological displays. This feature will play a
        The user can display a variety of data and
                                                       crucial role in enhancing communications between
        perform such functions as zooming,
                                                       collaborators, as well as in supporting prototyping
        panning, changing colors, overlaying
                                                       and routine briefing product generation.
        graphics, and animation on the client. The
        FXC server can accommodate a number of
                                                       NWS Warning and Forecast Offices, CWSUs and
        concurrent and independent clients. The
                                                       the AWC all have aviation forecast responsibilities,
        maximum number of clients is controlled
                                                       yet utilize different operational workstations and
        from a menu on the server.
                                                       data streams; AWIPS at the Forecast Offices,
   • Collaborative Mode - In collaborative mode,
                                                       WARP (Harris, 2002) at the CWSUs, and N-AWIPS
        the user can perform all of the same
                                                       at the AWC. Forecasters with overlapping or
        functions as in remote mode with the added
                                                       intersecting regions of forecast responsibility will
        capability of simultaneously updating or
                                                       gain a shared situational awareness through
        controlling the screen of other users. An
                                                       collaborative analysis and diagnosis using FXC's
        extensive drawing capability is available
                                                       collaboration capability.
        that allows the user to annotate the screen
        and share the annotation with the other
                                                       Another advantage of FXC in PACE is that the
        collaboration session participants. There is
                                                       Depictable Server and AWIPS data server being
        also a chat capability that allows users to
                                                       used reside at AWC, outside of their operational
        exchange text messages. Only one
                                                       firewall and local area network, and outside of the
        collaborative session can be held at a time.
                                                       operational AWIPS configuration management
        All users connected to a common server
                                                       system. This arrangement allows exploratory
        are part of the same session. The session
                                                       development and prototyping to occur with no
        can remain active although all clients have
                                                       impact to AWC's operational systems. It also
        disconnected from the server. This allows
                                                       allows the display of new operational products
        users to rejoin the session at a later time.
(NCWF and CCFP), which are not currently
available on operational AWIPS displays.              F.S.L., 2002: FXC Users' Guide. NOAA OAR
Additionally, the FXC Client computer at the CWSU     Forecast Systems Laboratory, 325 Broadway,
is isolated from the ARTCC operational systems,       Boulder CO 80305.
with a commercial DSL connection to the Internet,     http://www-
thereby having no impact to that operational
environment. In this implementation, FXC meets or
exceeds current government security standards.        Grote, U.H., and C. Golden, 2002: Extending
                                                      AWIPS to support remote collaboration. Preprints,
4. Acknowledgments                                    Interactive Symposium on AWIPS, Amer. Meteor.
                                                      Soc., Boston, MA, 114-117.
This research and development is in response to
requirements and funding by the Federal Aviation      Harris, 2002: Weather and Radar Processor. Harris
Administration. PACE is a joint project between       Corporation, 1025 West NASA Blvd, Melbourne, FL
FAA Southwest Region Headquarters, NWS                32919.
Southern Region Headquarters, NWS CWSU Fort 
Worth, NWS CWSU Houston, and NOAA FSL.                grams/warp/

A version of this paper was presented at the          Mueller, C.K., C.B. Fidalego, D.W. McCann, D.
Interactive Symposium on AWIPS, in Orlando, FL        Meganhart, N. Rehak, and T. Carty, 1999:
(Rodgers, 2002).                                      National Convective Weather Forecast Product.
                                                      Preprints, 8th Conf on Aviation Range, and
Thanks to Ed Tollerud for reviewing this extended     Aerospace Meteorology, Amer. Meteor. Soc.,
abstract.                                             Boston, MA, 230-234.

5. References                                         N.W.S., 2002: Prototyping Aviation Collaboration
                                                      Effort (PACE) concept of operations at the Fort
A.W.C., 2002: Collaborative Convective Forecast       Worth ARTCC CWSU. National Weather Service
Product. Aviation Weather Center, Kansas City, MO     Southern Region Hq, Fort Worth, TX, 22 pp.
                                                      Rodgers, D.M., 2002: Applying AWIPS technology
F.A.A., 1999: Decision-based weather needs for the    to the Prototype Aviation Collaboration Effort
Air Route Traffic Control Center Traffic              (PACE). Preprints, Interactive Symposium on
Management Unit. Federal Aviation Administration,     AWIPS, Amer. Meteor. Soc., Boston, MA, J326-
Air Traffic Systems Requirements, Washington,         J327
D.C., 21 pp.

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