Have you heard of the reality TV show called Shark Tank? It’s where promising entrepreneurs pitch their innovations to a panel of successful captains of industry (the Sharks) for that one chance to get an investment deal that will turn their dreams into a money-making reality.
The FAA “took a bite” out of the show’s concept to promote and encourage innovation at the agency level. FAA employees submitted over 65 ideas, with five finalists chosen to pitch their innovations to the FAA ‘Sharks,’ a group of executives representing several divisions and offices agency-wide, in a live video teleconference held on December 7, 2017. The winner, Matthew Thompson, pitched a groundbreaking idea that could potentially increase the number of aircraft providing turbulence observations by over 100 times compared to PIREPs.
Matthew, an FAA air traffic employee from Atlanta, proposed using the vast amount of data points (e.g., vertical speed and altitude) that controllers receive from an aircraft’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system as a means to model certain aspects of flight. He envisioned using ADS-B vertical field rate data to detect turbulence.
Matthew’s revolutionary idea was picked up by the Weather Technology in the Cockpit (WTIC) program as a project for the researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and it turns out that his winning idea is showing great promise in providing accurate turbulence observations. What’s most promising is that the turbulence observations resulting from Matthew’s idea can ultimately be input into models that will significantly enhance forecast tools such as the Graphical Turbulence Guidance (GTG), and a turbulence real-time product called GTG Nowcast (GTG-N) that gives you short-term forecast grids, modified on a point-by-point basis, to provide better conformity with the latest turbulence observations.
Stay tuned to faa.gov for updates and more about this cutting-edge initiative that could one day make all our turbulence forecasting dreams come true.