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Swiss Air Traffic Control Software Takes Off on the NetBeans Platform

My name is Julien Piaser, I am a software engineer working for Skyguide, the Swiss air traffic control company. I started my career by founding my own company dealing with e-commerce and B-to-B solutions. I then developed software in the oil trading industry. I'm a private pilot during my spare time and then joined Skyguide to align my passion with my know-how. Since then, I've been involved in a Java, NetBeans, Scrum and XP environment at Skyguide and have been the technical leader and part of the development team of Crystal.

Crystal is a NetBeans Platform application that delivers traffic information for the coming minutes/hours. (Crystal helps you to see the future, as a crystal ball, that was the basic idea of the name.) The airspace is divided in several blocks called sectors, each of which is controlled by a pair of controllers. If traffic is low, individual sectors can be combined together - the chosen combination is called a sectorisation. The goal of Crystal is to help the coordinator (supervisor) of the control centre to decide which sectorisation will be most appropriate during different periods of the day. It is also useful to decide how many controllers will be needed at different periods of the day.

The graphs are divided between lower and upper sectors (green and blue), distinguishes confirmed traffic (dark colour, airborne) and non-confirmed (light contrast), provides a "cheaters" detection tool (otherwise called "intruders") and a complexity curve (how difficult it will be to deal with the kind of traffic that is expected).

The following information can be identified via Crystal:

  • Early warning of current sectorization and short term detail per sector
  • Sectorization change simulation
  • View of specific individual sectors
  • Comparison of future eligible sectorizations with the same number of sectors
  • A tool to help the user build custom flows
  • Visualisation of the flows
  • The flight list of a specific graph

The NetBeans Platform provides the per-module design of Crystal, the ZIP distribution for the final application, and the tabbed layout. Even though we do not use a lot of the NetBeans Platform features right now, we could, in the future, incrementally extend the application with more NetBeans Platform features.

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