Three-dimensional conflict count models for unstructured and layered airspace designs

Emmanuel Sunil*, Joost Ellerbroek, Jacco M. Hoekstra, Jerom Maas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents analytical models that describe the safety of unstructured and layered en route airspace designs. Here, ‘unstructured airspace’ refers to airspace designs that offer operators complete freedom in path planning, whereas ‘layered airspace’ refers to airspace concepts that utilize heading-altitude rules to vertically separate cruising aircraft based on their travel directions. With a focus on the intrinsic safety provided by an airspace design, the models compute instantaneous conflict counts as a function of traffic demand and airspace design parameters, such as traffic separation requirements and the permitted heading range per flight level. While previous studies have focused primarily on conflicts between cruising aircraft, the models presented here also take into account conflicts involving climbing and descending traffic. Fast-time simulation experiments used to validate the modeling approach indicate that the models estimate instantaneous conflict counts with high accuracy for both airspace designs. The simulation results also show that climbing and descending traffic caused the majority of conflicts for layered airspaces with a narrow heading range per flight level, highlighting the importance of including all aircraft flight phases for a comprehensive safety analysis. Because such trends could be accurately predicted by the three-dimensional models derived here, these analytical models can be used as tools for airspace design applications as they provide a detailed understanding of the relationships between the parameters that influence the safety of unstructured and layered airspace designs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-319
Number of pages25
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Air Traffic Management (ATM)
  • Airspace design
  • Airspace safety
  • Conflict probability
  • Conflict rate


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