Estimation of time to point of closest approach for collision avoidance and separation systems

This paper proposes a method for estimating the amount of time until the point of closest approach (TPCA) between two aircraft. A range of simple methods which use derivatives to estimate the time to collision are analysed. These methods are only accurate when the angle subtended between the direction of the relative velocity vector, and the bearing of the intruder aircraft is small. An extended method is developed which calculates the exact TPCA from relative distance and bearing measurements. Representative levels of Gaussian white noise are introduced to the core equation variables for both the derivative and extended methods. It is found that as we increase the value of θ, the extended method's accuracy increases beyond that of the derivative method. A fusion algorithm is developed to switch between methods and is shown to perform well for a range of conflicts. When the relative velocity between the two aircraft is small, the signal to noise ratio on the relative velocity variable reduces causing large errors to the TPCA estimation. It is therefore concluded that at a certain relative velocity threshold, Vk (dependant on sensor and filter performance) both the derivative and extended TPCA estimation methods would become undesirable as risk estimators. It is suggested that in these situations distance could be better to use since it can be measured directly.