3D based digital image processing for meteorological services in air traffic management.

Processing of weather radar data

Meteorological analyses and short-term forecasting supply an essential source of information for tactical planning in air traffic management. Weather radar, meteosat images and local weather observations allow relevant statements to be made about precipitation, icy hazards, storm situations and visibility information in three-dimensional space. Due to the geographical situation of Austria and frequent disturbances of the measurements by external signals (RLAN, etc.), additional cleaning of weather radar data is necessary.

Identify and eliminate artifacts and gaps

The digital image processing helps to recognize artifacts and gaps in weather radar images and, on the basis of current knowledge (from time-series analyses, local environmental analyses and the combination with Meteosat images), eliminate or supplement them. Cover and visibility information is determined at predefined reference points and evaluations of current digital images made. The analysis of three-dimensional data with volume rendering also enables pattern recognition. Thus, building thunderstorm cells or characteristic mesoscalar risk patterns can be detected and the information taken into account (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Detection of storm structures in WXR data (oblique position and bow-echo)

With the help of digital elevation models (DEMs) and GIS data, camera-based readings of visibility and coverage information outside a defined area of an airport could be carried out. As an alternative to taking measurements purely with standard cameras, thermal cameras were also used. The elevations of the clouds are determined from the measurements of cloud temperatures and associated vertical profiles from models (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Thermal image of a stratocumulus and associated height profile from a radiosonde ascent

Project results

The methods developed have been tested and validated both in individual work packages as well as in an integrated form. The 2D methods that were developed during the preceding DIBMETSAT project were combined with the 3D methods and adapted to the MET system architecture used by the partners ACG and MSV. Thus, a partially operational analysis system that can be used to improve short-term forecasts in meteorology is available.

Improving the quality of basic sources of information related to weather observations allows the early detection of weather phenomena (e.g., thunderstorms, hail, freezing rain), thereby increasing the overall levels of safety. Reliable methods and procedures allow better planning and control of air traffic and contribute to a reduction in delays and holdings, which in turn results in lower emissions.

Fewer delays also translate to an increase in capacity and cost efficiency. Better predictions result in reduced waiting times for flight passengers.

Project partners

  • JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsges. m.b.H.
  • AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH
  • Austro Control, the Austrian Society for Civil Aviation Limited Liability
  • MeteoServe Weather Service GmbH


The project was supported in the Austrian Aviation Program “TAKE OFF” with funds from the BMK.

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