Never get stranded on the tarmac again: new MIT system cuts down airplane queue time

Raleigh Durham International Airport
Nobody likes waiting at airports. But one of the only things worse than waiting beside the gate is waiting on the airplane itself, stranded on the runway, and an MIT engineering team has set out to solve that problem. Using a new queuing model, the MIT system can predict how long a plane will have to wait before takeoff so that air traffic controllers can better manage planes on the tarmac, cut down waiting times, and keep runways running efficiently.

The algorithmic model takes into account many factors that influence airport runway congestion, from weather conditions and existing runway traffic to inbound and outbound flight times, local and international delays, and more. The first step of the model takes into account an airplane’s route and estimated time from the gate to takeoff. On top of all these factors and the estimated timing of an individual plane’s departure, the model takes into account the average time it takes a plane to take off once it has joined the runway queue.

Air traffic controllers will be able to see a more realistic projection of the time between an airplane’s gate departure and actual takeoff, permitting them to make better-informed decisions. It may be a better move to keep a plane at the gate for an extra half hour, instead of boarding the plane and sending it into a long runway queue, angering passengers and further backing up tarmac traffic.

MIT’s engineering team is testing the model at airports across the United States. Hamsa Balakrishnan, associate professor of aeronautics, astronautics and engineering systems, started research into the model in 2007 at Newark Liberty International Airport, JFK International Airport, and Philadelphia International Airport. She discovered that airplane passengers traveling during the airports’ busiest travel times sat in runway taxiing patterns for an average of 52 minutes, compared to 14 minutes during less busy hours of the day.

Experienced air traffic controllers could theoretically avoid long queues of airplanes waiting to take off, but in practice, they usually don’t. As soon as an airplane is boarded and ready to depart, it is authorized to join congested patterns of tarmac traffic along with dozens of other planes. This only exacerbates the problem, and the negative impact extends from passengers to airlines and on to the air traffic professionals who are trying to keep the skies safe. The MIT model should be able to cut down on runway congestion, passenger headaches, and dangerous situations in the skies.

Mobile

Apple’s iPhone battery offer was reportedly way more popular than expected

As many as 11 million iPhone owners reportedly made use of Apple's cheaper battery replacement offer that launched in 2018 in response to the iPhone throttling debacle — some 10 times more than the company had apparently expected.
Photography

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.