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Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR) System

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An airborne weather radar system, the Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR), with enhanced on-board weather radar data processing was developed and tested. The system features additional weather data that is uplinked from ground-based sources, specialized data processing, and limited automatic radar control to search for hazardous weather. National Weather Service (NWS) ground-based Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) information is used by the EWxR system to augment the on-board weather radar information. The system will simultaneously display NEXRAD and on-board weather radar information in a split-view format. The on-board weather radar includes an automated or hands-free storm-finding feature that optimizes the radar returns by automatically adjusting the tilt and range settings for the current altitude above the terrain and searches for storm cells near the atmospheric 0-degree isotherm. A rule-based decision aid was developed to automatically characterize cells as hazardous, possibly-hazardous, or non-hazardous based upon attributes of that cell. Cell attributes are determined based on data from the on-board radar and from ground-based radars. A flight path impact prediction algorithm was developed to help pilots to avoid hazardous weather along their flight plan and their mission. During development the system was tested on the NASA B757 aircraft and final tests were conducted on the Rockwell Collins Sabreliner.
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June 2003
NASA/CR-2003-212406
Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR) System
Kevin M. Kronfeld
Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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June 2003
NASA/CR-2003-212406
Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR) System
Kevin M. Kronfeld
Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
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1
EWXR PROGRAM (NCC1-355)
Contractor Report
Background ..................................................................................................................................... 3
Overview......................................................................................................................................... 3
EWxR Display.............................................................................................................................5
System Architecture..................................................................................................................... 8
Demonstration of EWxR System on NASA ARIES Aircraft .....................................................9
Demonstration of EWxR System on Rockwell Collins Sabreliner Aircraft..............................13
Summary.......................................................................................................................................14
2
3
Background
On October 23, 1998, as part of the NASA Weather Accident Prevention Program, Rockwell and
NASA entered into a cooperative research agreement to explore the use of advanced technologies
to enhance the quality of on-board weather information processing. The focus of the program,
Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR), is the on-board weather radar. The advanced radar capabilities
include:
A decision aid to assist the pilot in the operation of the on-board radar;
Integration of strategic ground-based weather information and tactical on-board weather
information;
A decision aid to automatically characterize storm cells;
A decision aid to assist the pilot in the interpretation of hazards relative to their flight plan.
Rockwell and NASA demonstrated the advanced radar capabilities on the NASA ARIES and
Rockwell Collins Sabreliner aircraft. The EWxR demonstrations included presentation of a
single display, combining tactical and strategic weather information, characterizations and
classification of storm cells to provide a decision aid, and evaluation of storm hazards relative to
the flight plan to provide a second decision aid. This document provides an overview of the
EWxR advanced radar capabilities, display formats, system architecture, and demonstration
examples from the Spring 2002 NASA ARIES flight test and September 2002 Rockwell
Sabreliner flight test.
Overview
A pilot operating the on-board weather radar must have considerable experience in radar
operating techniques, in order to realize maximum benefit from the weather radar system.
Initial developments under the EWxR program focused on providing guidance to pilots on how to
operate the on-board weather radar and automating control of the weather radar. The guidance
was in the form of suggestions to the pilot on how to effectively manage the radar tilt and range
settings based upon current altitude above terrain and the current weather conditions. Automation
of those tasks was further developed to provide the pilot with a “hands-free” capability to operate
the on-board weather radar.
The automated or “hands-free” storm-finding feature optimizes the radar returns by automatically
adjusting the tilt and range settings for the current altitude above the terrain and searching for
storm cells near the atmospheric 0-degree isotherm.
Even if the operation of the on-board radar is automated, the on-board weather radar has
limitations as a weather avoidance tool based upon limited range, attenuation, single-beamwidth
display, etc. In order to eliminate or minimize the limitations of the radar, ground-based weather
information is used to augment the on-board weather radar information.
National Weather Service (NWS) ground-based Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) information
is used by the EWxR system to augment the on-board weather radar information. The EWxR
system overcomes the attenuation and range limitations of the on-board weather radar by
allowing the pilot to simultaneously display NEXRAD and on-board weather radar information in
a “split-view” format, as shown in Figure 3. The “split-view” format uses Composite Base
Reflectivity NEXRAD imagery, which shows nearly all weather phenomena by collapsing
4
altitude dependent information to a simple plan view and combining overlapping base reflectivity
scans. At a given time, on-board weather radar provides data from a single sweep, at an operator-
selected elevation. Relying solely on this information, it is possible for a pilot to miss a cell that
is below or above the current radar scan. The composite NEXRAD portion of the EWxR display
compensates for this limitation of the on-board radar.
A rule-based decision aid was developed to automatically characterize cells as hazardous,
possibly-hazardous, or non-hazardous based upon attributes of that cell. Cell attributes are
determined based on data from the on-board radar and from ground-based radars. An example of
an attribute detected by the on-board radar is the reflectivity level. Examples of ground-based
attributes detected by NWS NEXRAD radar sites are storm height, speed, and heading, hail
potential, and tornadic behavior. The EWxR decision aid uses the attributes from the multiple
sensors to assess whether a storm cell is hazardous. The benefit of using the information from the
multiple sensors is that one sensor may detect information about a cell that will trigger a hazard
where another may not due to latency, range limitations, attenuation, etc.
The flight path impact prediction algorithm is an aid for pilots that need to avoid hazardous
weather along their flight plan and their mission. Pilots must continually monitor weather along
their flight plan as well as at their destination. Pilots rely on their on-board weather radar for the
location of hazardous weather. However, they must also use cognitive skills to predict locations
of hazards in the future. To do this, they must characterize the weather as hazardous and then
determine the location of hazardous weather relative to where the aircraft will be in the future.
To that end, the pilot must consider the aircraft's current speed, altitude, and flight path to predict
the location of the aircraft at some time in the future. The pilot must then predict where cells that
are deemed hazardous will be at that same time in the future. From there, the pilot must
determine if the hazardous cell is "too close" and must be circumnavigated. The flight path
impact algorithm automates those tasks and provides the pilot with a unique display to denote an
impact area along the flight plan.
5
EWxR Display
The EWxR system capability includes three modes for weather depiction. The first mode of
operation is a weather-only (Wx) mode, which is found on all standard radar indicators. That
mode displays weather radar information generated directly from the radar receiver/transmitter
unit. An example of Wx mode information taken from the EWxR display is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Wx Example
6
In addition to the Wx operation mode, a NEXRAD-only (Nx) mode is available to show the pilot
a heading-up view of composite base reflectivity NEXRAD weather information. An example of
the NEXRAD-only display is shown in Figure 2. The NEXRAD-only view of weather
information provides the pilot with the capability to view weather information that is generated at
5-6 minute intervals by the National Weather Service ground-based Doppler weather radars.
Figure 2 Nx Example
7
A third mode (Wx+Nx) of operation developed by the EWxR team provides the pilot with a
“split-view” capability of tactical on-board weather radar information and strategic ground-based
weather information. EWxR currently uses composite base-reflectivity NEXRAD information as
the ground-based data source in its Wx+Nx (split-view) and Nx modes. An example of the
Wx+Nx mode is shown in Figure 3. The dashed, white demarcation line separates the tactical on-
board weather radar information near the aircraft from the ground-based weather information.
Figure 3 Wx+Nx Example
NEXRAD
On -board
Weather
Radar
8
System Architecture
The EWxR system architecture supports the uplink of ground-based weather information through
multiple datalink options, including SkyphoneTM and a satellite communication (SATCOM) data
link developed under the NASA Weather Accident Prevention Program. The EWxR ground
station uplinks NEXRAD composite radar imagery and NEXRAD storm cell attribute data to the
aircraft.
EWxR Weather Service Provider/
Ground Station
NEXRAD Information
raw radar data
NEXRAD Information
Ground-based
Radar Information
Transmission
Antenna
EWxR
Processor
Datalinks
Manager
Airborne System
Ground Based Radar Sites
Internet
Figure 4 EWxR System Architecture
In Figure 4, the datalinks manager receives the ground-based weather information on the aircraft
and passes it on to the EWxR processor. EWxR receives on-board weather radar data over the
aircraft’s ARINC 453 bus. Aircraft and flight plan information arrives via the aircraft’s ARINC
429 bus.
9
Demonstration of EWxR System on NASA ARIES Aircraft
The EWxR integrated system demonstration was successfully flown on the NASA ARIES during
the months of March, April, and May of 2002. The EWxR system included NWS NEXRAD
Attribute Information associated with NEXRAD cells and on-board weather radar cells.
Rockwell Collins demonstrated the ability of the EWxR system to assess whether a storm cell is
hazardous based upon NEXRAD information. Further, the system was able to determine whether
(and where) each hazardous cell would impact the aircraft flight plan. Ground-based weather
information was datalinked to the EWxR system using the SATCOM datalink.
Researchers from NASA Langley Research Center and Rockwell Collins used the ARIES aircraft
to demonstrate the EWxR integrated system, collect weather radar data on storm cells of interest,
and verify the accuracy of the EWxR algorithms. The following figures are results from the April
3, 2002 and May 17, 2002 flight tests on the NASA ARIES aircraft. Figure 5 is a track-up view
of NEXRAD imagery and NEXRAD Attribute information from the April 3, 2002 flight test.
Figure 5 NEXRAD Imagery and NEXRAD Attribute Data April 3, 2002
NEXRAD Cell
NEXRAD Cell
Attributes
10
Figure 6 WxR Cell with NEXRAD Attribute Data April 3, 2002
Figure 6 is an example of datalinked NEXRAD information associated (fused) with on-board
WxR imagery on the April 3, 2002 NASA flight test demonstration. The upper-half of the
display shows a cell depicted by the on-board weather radar. The lower half of the display shows
the ground-based attributes that have been associated with the on-board radar cell. A decision aid
is used on the attributes to assess whether the cell is hazardous. Note the high reflectivity level
(51dBZ) and the PROBABLE indication of hail by the NWS attribute data. Without the
additional NWS NEXRAD attribute information, the cell depicted by the on-board weather radar
on April 3, 2002, could be easily mistaken as being benign, rather than hazardous.
Once a storm cell has been assessed as being hazardous, the flight path impact prediction
algorithm automatically determines if the hazardous cell is predicted to affect the pilot’s mission.
Figure 7 and Figure 8 illustrate the results from the May 17, 2002 flight test on the NASA ARIES
aircraft. The time associated with Figure 7 is 17:36GMT. The time associated with the two
displays in Figure 8 is 17:38GMT and 17:41GMT, respectively. The aircraft’s altitude was
30,340ft and its ground speed was 433 knots during that time period.
NWS NEXRAD
Cell Attributes
associated with
WxR Cell
WxR Cell
11
Figure 7 Flight Path Impact - May 17, 2002, 17:36GMT
In Figure 7, a large portion of the flight plan has been “flagged” as being hazardous based upon
the predicted location of several hazardous storm cells along the aircraft’s flight plan. The yellow
bars flanking the flight plan denote the flight path impact area. The large flight path impact area
occurred because the aircraft’s flight plan intersects several storm cell hazards. In the display of
Figure 7, the cell that is closest to the aircraft, which has a top at 28,500ft (285), has been selected
by the pilot, and NEXRAD attributes associated with that cell are displayed in the lower half of
the graphic. That cell has also been assessed as being hazardous because of its high reflectivity
level (59dBZ) and the positive indication of hail. Reflectivity greater than 40dBZ is generally a
hazard because of potential severe turbulence associated with that cell. Note the velocity vector
associated with the cell (white arrow) indicating that the cell is moving towards the flight plan
and is an impending hazard. A hazardous cell is considered a threat to the aircraft and its mission
only if the cell will pass within a specified distance from the aircraft’s flight plan. The distance to
be considered hazardous is set by the operational rules of the airline. It is most commonly 20
nautical miles. This particular cell’s current position and predicted positions fall within 20
nautical miles of the aircraft’s current and predicted positions, so the cell is considered an
immediate and future hazard to the aircraft.
Flight Path
Impact area.
12
Figure 8 Confirmation of Flight Path Impact - May 17, 2002
Figure 8 shows views of the same cell later in the flight (17:38GMT and 17:41GMT). The image
sequence illustrates the aircraft circumnavigating the cell. In the left image, note the turbulence
associated with the cell, as detected by the on-board weather radar and indicated by magenta.
The right image shows the same cell two-minutes later in the circumnavigation procedure. At the
time the right image was taken, the aircraft experienced turbulence with a downward force of 2
G’s, which confirmed that the cell was hazardous, as previously indicated by the decision aiding
logic and flight path impact prediction.
13
Demonstration of EWxR System on Rockwell Collins Sabreliner Aircraft
On September 5 and September 6, 2002, Rockwell Collins and NASA Langley researchers
successfully demonstrated the EWxR system on the Rockwell Collins Sabreliner aircraft. A
Rockwell Collins SATCOM datalink was installed on the Sabreliner aircraft. Weather Services
International (WSI) provided ground-based weather data to the aircraft.
Over the two-day period, researchers worked a storm system that extended from northern
Minnesota to northern Wisconsin. Eleven cells from that system were characterized using the
EWxR system. Figure 9 was taken at 20:04GMT on September 5, 2002 and shows a cell
depicted by the on-board weather radar that has datalinked NEXRAD information associated with
it. The inset picture shows the pilot’s view of the same cell through the cockpit window.
Figure 9 EWxR Hazard Assessment, September 5, 2002
The EWxR decision aid has assessed the cell as hazardous based upon the attributes associated
with the cell. The 40,000 ft. storm top and very high reflectivity level (67dBZ) associated with
the cell are indicators that the cell is hazardous. In this instance, without the benefit of EWxR,
had the pilot been operating the radar at a different antenna tilt and range combination, the on-
board radar might not have detected the high reflectivity level. That would result in a situation,
similar to that depicted in Figure 6, where the unaided radar display of a hazardous storm would
appear benign.
Figure 10 was taken at 20:08GMT and is another look at the hazardous cell from Figure 9.
Figure 10 shows a flight path impact prediction with that cell. Note the cell is moving in the
direction the aircraft will be traveling during the next leg of the flight plan and will be within 20
Cell
14
nautical miles of the aircraft, so it will be a potential hazard when the aircraft begins the next leg
of the flight plan.
Figure 10 EWxR Flight Path Impact Prediction September 5, 2002
Summary
The successful flight tests on the NASA ARIES and Rockwell Collins Sabreliner demonstrated
the utility of augmenting on-board weather radar information with ground-based weather
information. The weather information allowed the NASA and Rockwell Collins EWxR system to
assess not only whether storm cells are hazardous, but also whether they will affect the mission.
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Enhanced Waather Radar (EWxR) System
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Kronfeld, Kevin M.
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14. ABSTRACT
An airborne weather radar system, the Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR), with enhanced on-board weather radar data processing was developed and tested.
The system features additional weather data that is uplinked from ground-based sources, specialized data processing, and limited automatic radar control to
search for hazardous weather. National Weather Service (NWS) ground-based Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD) information is used by the EWxR system
to augment the on-board weather radar information. The system will simultaneously display NEXRAD and on-board weather radar information in a
“split-view” format. The on-board weather radar includes an automated or “hands-free” storm-finding feature that optimizes the radar returns by automatically
adjusting the tilt and range settings for the current altitude above the terrain and searches for storm cells near the atmospheric 0-degree isotherm. A rule-based
decision aid was developed to automatically characterize cells as hazardous, possibly-hazardous, or non-hazardous based upon attributes of that cell. Cell
attributes are determined based on data from the on-board radar and from ground-based radars. A flight path impact prediction algorithm was developed to
help pilots to avoid hazardous weather along their flight plan and their mission. During development the system was tested on the NASA B757 aircraft and
final tests were conducted on the Rockwell Collins Sabreliner.
15. SUBJECT TERMS
Weather radar; Doppler radar; Aviation safety; Radar display
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... Optimal and successful use of this equipment requires a substantial amount of experience on the part of the flight crew. However, Rockwell Collins (Kronfeld, 2003) has developed an onboard radar that utilizes algorithms to automate the tilt of the radar based on certain parameters (e.g., current altitude above the terrain). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that this type of technology will be adopted in some form and onboard radar will be less vulnerable to some of the human error that currently compromises the information obtained from it. ...
... Therefore, combining onboard and ground-based radars would provide more comprehensive coverage. In fact, Rockwell Collins has made an initial attempt at this particular integration for this particular reason (Kronfeld, 2003). Third, having multiple sources for one type of weather information allows the accuracy of the data to be examined in real time. ...
... The first is to have varying degrees of hazards. For example, Rockwell Collins (Kronfeld, 2003) has a display that characterizes hazardous cells as "hazardous" or "possibly-hazardous." This approach is not recommended, as the use of varying characterizations creates the risk of misinterpretation. ...
... We are not the only researchers to argue and conduct research on the idea that one way to support pilot inferences about the uncertainty in weather-aviation products is to leverage probabilistic forecasts that explicitly render the uncertainty. Rockwell Collins' Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR) system combined NEXRAD and onboard radar to overcome the attenuation and range limitations of the onboard radar (Kronfeld, 2003). It also characterized the cells as hazardous, possibly-hazardous, or non-hazardous based upon attributes like reflectivity level, storm speed, and height. ...
... These results guide the development of probabilistic tools that increases the risk situation awareness of operators. Thus, it addresses some of the issues faced by earlier attempts by Kronfeld (2003), Matthews and DeLaura (2010), and others in introducing qualitative probabilistic risk information in cockpits, which pilots misunderstood. The transfer of learning and within-phase learning can help develop and improve training programs for weather displays. ...
Article
Full-text available
We argue that providing cumulative risk as an estimate of the uncertainty in dynamically changing risky environments can help decision-makers meet mission-critical goals. Specifically, we constructed a simplified aviation-like weather decision-making task incorporating Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) images of convective weather. NEXRAD radar images provide information about geographically referenced precipitation. NEXRAD radar images are used by both pilots and laypeople to support decision-making about the level of risk posed by future weather-hazard movements. Using NEXRAD, people and professionals have to infer the uncertainty in the meteorological information to understand current hazards and extrapolate future conditions. Recent advancements in meteorology modeling afford the possibility of providing uncertainty information concerning hazardous weather for the current flight. Although there are systematic biases that plague people’s use of uncertainty information, there is evidence that presenting forecast uncertainty can improve weather-related decision-making. The current study augments NEXRAD by providing flight-path risk, referred to as the Risk Situational Awareness Tool (RSAT). RSAT provides the probability that a route will come within 20 NMI radius (FAA recommended safety distance) of hazardous weather within the next 45 min of flight. The study evaluates four NEXRAD displays integrated with RSAT, providing varying levels of support. The “no” support condition has no RSAT (the NEXRAD only condition). The “baseline” support condition employs an RSAT whose accuracy is consistent with current capability in meteorological modeling. The “moderate” support condition applies an RSAT whose accuracy is likely at the top of what is achievable in meteorology in the near future. The “high” support condition provides a level of support that is likely unachievable in an aviation weather decision-making context without considerable technological innovation. The results indicate that the operators relied on the RSAT and improved their performance as a consequence. We discuss the implications of the findings for the safe introduction of probabilistic tools in future general aviation cockpits and other dynamic decision-making contexts. Moreover, we discuss how the results contribute to research in the fields of dynamic risk and uncertainty, risk situation awareness, cumulative risk, and risk communication.
... To obtain a comprehensive and accurate picture of the weather ahead using the on-board weather radar, pilots need to learn how to effectively manage the radar tilt and range settings based on current altitudes and weather conditions. The Enhanced Weather Radar (EWxR) is an on-board weather radar display system developed in 1998 as part of a NASA and Rockwell collaboration to explore using advanced technologies to enhance the processing of information provided by the on-board weather radar (Kronfeld, 2003). It improves upon traditional on-board weather radars in the following ways: ...
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