Particle filter for aircraft mass estimation and uncertainty modeling

Junzi Sun*, Henk A.P. Blom, Joost Ellerbroek, Jacco M. Hoekstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


This article investigates the estimation of aircraft mass and thrust settings of departing aircraft using a recursive Bayesian method called particle filtering. The method is based on a nonlinear state-space system derived from aircraft point-mass performance models. Using only aircraft surveillance data, flight states such as position, velocity, wind speed, and air temperature are collected and used for the estimations. With the regularized Sample Importance Re-sampling particle filter, we are able to estimate the aircraft mass within 30 seconds once an aircraft is airborne. Using this short flight segment allows the assumption of constant mass and thrust setting. The segment at the start of the climb also represents the time when maximum thrust setting is most likely to occur. This study emphasizes an important aspect of the estimation problem, the observation noise modeling. Four observation noise models are proposed, which are all based on the native navigation accuracy parameters that have been obtained automatically from the surveillance data. Simulations and experiments are conducted to test the theoretical model. The results show that the particle filter is able to quantify uncertainties, as well as determine the noise limit for an accurate estimation. The method of this study is tested with a data-set consisting of 50 Cessna Citation II flights where true masses were recorded.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-162
Number of pages18
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Aircraft
  • Bayesian estimation
  • Observation noise
  • Particle filter
  • Point-mass model
  • State estimation


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