Qantas launches world’s most sophisticated flight planner

December 16, 2018
Qantas 787. Credit Richard Kreider

Qantas has developed the world’s most sophisticated flight plan system that will save the airline up to $40 million in fuel and make flights like the Perth to London non-stop even faster.

Called Constellation it models thousands of flight paths across millions of data points to determine the best route whilst accounting for time, aircraft capability, weather and external constraints such as closed airspace or weather events or even ash clouds.

Constellation replaces Qantas’s previous flight planning system Capricorn, which was in place for almost 30 years.

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The new system has been designed from scratch in partnership with The Australian Centre for Field Robotics at The University of Sydney.

An airline spokesman said that the decision to design a bespoke system for Qantas was due to the fact that off the shelf solutions were unsuitable and didn’t account for Australia’s isolation.

“The previous system could only examine one user-defined route, at one flight level at one speed, the spokesman said.

Constellation is a 4D flight planning system, simultaneously using lateral, altitude, speed and weather to determine the best path out of thousands of options.

It is expected to cut the airline’s fuel bill by 0.6 percent each year or around $20 million and it’s envisaged the system could help Qantas cut fuel use by 1 percent, or $40 million a year.

Constellation works by assesses millions of data points to provide the best flight path as well as the optimal fuel plan.

Key is taking advantage of – or avoiding – winds and jet streams.

To do this, the system brings together data for the weather and underlying aeronautical navigation structures, the aircraft performance and a description of the mission itself.

Qantas is now developing additional optimization and functional capabilities to allow the system to be used by other group airlines or potentially other carriers.

Constellation is already in operating on the airline’s A380s and 747s and was just rolled out onto the 787s.

The airline’s A330 and 737 will get Constellation next year.

Qantas says that Constellation will also save 50,000,000 kgs of CO2 emissions each year.