Northrop Grumman is working to make a famously stressful job,air traffic control,a little less chaotic. The integrator won a bid from the Federal Aviation Administration to create a Web portal that would provide access to multiple data sources.
Dozens of air traffic command centers store and maintain data about airport terminals, runways, flight plans and other aspects of commercial and military air travel, said David Hinman, director of technology, government solutions, at Northrop Grumman.
Each of these centers had procured and customized software products to handle its own set of tasks, adhering to the federal government's preference of purchasing and customizing commercial, off-the-shelf software, Hinman said.
"It was costing millions of dollars to adapt the software and then maintain the adaptations at all these sites," he said. The FAA was looking for ways to lower the cost and complexity of maintaining such a broad range of applications, so it initiated a program called NASE, or National Airspace System Adaptation Services Environment, he said.
Northrop Grumman had to select products that would meet the FAA's criteria and then examine the processes in place for how air traffic controllers and other FAA staff used and interacted with the information. The systems integrator vetted a number of portal products, ultimately selecting one from Art Technology Group, Cambridge, Mass.
Donna Burnette, a major account manager in ATG's government solutions group, said the FAA procured ATG's portal and relationship management technology, as well as its Dynamo application server.
The FAA launched version 5.6.1 of Dynamo, and an upgrade to the 6.0 edition was slated to get under way last week, Burnette said.
Northrop Grumman carefully evaluated ATG's personalization capabilities, since different communities in the FAA rely on divergent sources of data, Hinman said. FAA users that specialize in processing weather patterns, for example, would need a different data view than would staffers tracking radar. "Every community would need that personalization," he said.
The FAA approved the choice, and Hinman and his team began the development of a portal that initially would be used by a small pilot group.
"We felt the community of users would grow multiple times," he said, underscoring the importance of the application's scalability. The portal is being rolled out slowly to flight-control centers.
Darrin Donlon, project manager for NASE, which is based at the FAA's research center near Atlantic City, N.J., said the administration measures the success of a project such as this one by comparing how much effort it took to complete a task using the old system with the effort needed when using the upgraded system.
"Once the toolset is enabled, you can actually see significant savings quickly," he said.