The project

BEACON is a research project, funded under SESAR 2020 Exploratory Research, seeking to design new procedures for Airspace Users (AUs) to better allocate their resources (aircraft, pilots, crew, and others) in case of disruptions, and evaluate the proposed procedures through new methods and tools able to take into account AUs’ complex behaviours, such as bounded rationality. The project built on the concept of User-Driven Prioritisation Process (UDPP), already developed by Eurocontrol. UDPP is a simple way for airlines to avoid the impact of massive delays on their fleet by reordering their own flights within constraints. BEACON studied the feasibility of extending UDPP to allow multi-prioritisation processes in the airspace (e.g. encompassing departure slots, regulation slots, arrival manager slots), and exchange of slots between airlines. For this, it has used two models: a strategic model with long-term planning capabilities for the agents, and a more detailed tactical simulator to capture network effects and compute various key performance indicators. To properly capture the agents’ behaviours, BEACON has made use of behavioural economics. Effects like endowment, loss-aversion, hyperbolic discounting and others have been explored, in order to take them into account in the design of the new prioritisation mechanisms right from the start. Different types of markets and credit systems have been tested with the models.

BEACON’s goals

BEACON aimed to make significant contributions at two levels: (i) at the methodological level, by developing new approaches for the assessment of flight prioritisation mechanisms based on behavioural economics; (ii) at an applied level, by formulating and assessing new flight prioritisation mechanisms. The BEACON project has achieved these contributions by meeting the following high-level objectives:

  1. Propose a set of improved flight prioritisation mechanisms that expand current UDPP capabilities.
  2. Define new metrics to evaluate the fairness and equity of flight prioritisation mechanisms and validate their appropriateness with AUs.
  3. Quantify the impact of ‘non-rational’ behaviours of AUs on the outcome of the proposed mechanisms, taking advantage of the methods and tools developed in the field of behavioural economics.
  4. Integrate the insights gained from behavioural economics into an agent-based microsimulation model of the full ECAC network able to capture network effects. 
  5. Run a set of simulation experiments to evaluate the impact of the new UDPP mechanisms on the selected KPIs, taking into account behavioural effects, in order to analyse the advantages and the risks with respect to the current UDPP capabilities.
  6. Derive guidelines and methodological recommendations on the further development, validation and deployment of the new UDPP mechanisms that pave the way to a more harmonised and efficient flight prioritisation process across Europe.

Nommon’s role

Nommon‘s contribution to the project was divided into the following main points:

  • Nommon led the identification of the flight prioritisation mechanisms analysed in the project and the definition of the set of indicators used to evaluate the performance of these mechanisms.
  • Nommon developed the agent-based small-scale model that was used for the preliminary analysis of the impact of non-rational behaviour on the different selected flight prioritisation mechanisms.
  • Nommon developed the visual interface of the tool that was used to carry out the human-in-the-loop simulations in order to compare the behaviours of real humans with their modelled counterpart. In these experiments the human, through the visual interface, could interact with the model and make decisions about flight priorities.
BEACON – Human-in-the-loop visual interface.

This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 893100 under European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.