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Tracking Santa’s Sleigh In 4D

Feature Article | December 24, 2015 by Thomas Pohl, Marcel Matha

After spending the last year preparing up in the North Pole, Santa and his reindeer are finally ready for their annual journey around the world.

Ahead of his arrival, air traffic controllers across the world are now in full Christmas mode, preparing to ensure Santa has a safe journey when he enters our skies late on Christmas Eve.

Let’s shed a little light on how Santa’s sleigh is able to fly safely with the help of the latest technology trends of a smart connected, digital world.

To guarantee a safe flight from takeoff to landing, a high-performance air traffic management (ATM) is necessary. 2014 was the first year more than 100,000 flights per day occurred globally — in other words, every 0.8 seconds a plane took off or landed.

Thus, keeping track of every single aircraft is like looking for a moving needle in a moving haystack — or finding Santa’s sleigh among the 100,000 flights.

Air traffic controllers use ATM software to tell the aircraft to go up or down, turn right or left, speed up or slow down. Modern cross-linked ATMs do much more than simply avoid collisions; they also ensure the most efficient and quickest flight routes. An air traffic controller must make compromises quickly between flying time, detours, fuel consumption, bad weather constellations, changing flight plans, and other unexpected events such as unscheduled traffic and emergency situations. To enable this, the aviation industry uses the power of Big Data analysis and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In 2014 SAP and Luciad started a cooperation, LuciadLightspeed, to offer integrated 3D spatial visualization. Lufthansa Systems, a global market leader in ATM solutions, wanted to address potential issues with increasing air traffic. It aims to track and coordinate flights in 4D (all three spatial directions and time as the 4th dimension) and real time, since every flight is simulated several times before its departure.

To face this challenge, Lufthansa Systems has begun to explore the idea of using an in-memory operational Big Data store to perfect flight operations using IoT. The spatial visualization platform provides real-time situational awareness and allows optimization of fuel and crew costs, according to Christoph Krüger, lead architect of Lufthansa Systems. He notes, “The spatial engine has given us the ability to track thousands of flights per day on a rich 3D mapping interface that includes both spatial and temporal coordinates. At the same time, we were able to uncover breakthrough application scenarios that would not have been possible without the platform.”

This video demonstrates how ATM works and how the impact of weather events can be easily analyzed and impacted flight trajectories can be rerouted in real time:

It’s a win-win situation: By combining leading technology solutions with business know-how, airlines can reduce both operating costs and environmental impact. And most important, Santa can safely deliver presents on time to millions of children around the world.

Technology is transforming the way we travel on the ground, too. See Will These Disruptive Devices Change Your Commute?

This story originally appeared on The Digitalist.
Top image via Shutterstock

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