SYST 490/495 Senior System Design Project (2003/2004)


Instructor: Dr. George L. Donohue

Office: Rm 121 S&T II

Lecture: Science and Tech II Rm 128

Time: MW 09:00 – 10:15

Lab: Rm 16 Central Module

Office Hours: Monday 10:30 to 12:00, 13:30 to 16:30

                        Wednesday 10:30 to 12:00


Text: Augustine’s Laws, Norman R. Augustine, 6th Edition, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1997.


Project Management in Practice, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer and Sutton, John Wiley and Sons, 2001 (includes software)


Objective:  These two courses, together, provide the Capstone experience to the Systems Engineering undergraduate program.  It provides the students with the opportunity to put all of the course material that you have covered in the last 4 years into practice.  It also provides the faculty with the opportunity to test your ability to have assimilated the course material and certify that you are ready to receive the Bachelor of Science degree in Systems Engineering.  In addition to providing you the opportunity to utilize the systems engineering processes (e.g. requirements determination, work-breakdown structures, Pert Charts, test and evaluation, life cycle costing, etc.) it will require you to use your analytical skills in system modeling, simulation and decision making.  Emphasis in these courses will also be placed on written and verbal communication skill development and the creative process of engineering design.  You now have the basic skills that should allow you to create new systems that are technically sound, affordable, environmentally compatible and safe.  You will be asked to determine whether a Business Case exits for your designs in the Program Proposal that you will submit in late November.  You will be required to manage a complex, unstructured project using the management and teamwork skills that you have developed.  The class will be divided into four project teams, each working on a real transportation problem.   Each student MUST maintain a personal log of all design activity, to be inspected upon demand.  You MUST submit a weekly time sheet to your team timekeeper to be submitted at all major program reviews.  All teams will be entered into inter-scholastic senior design competitions at the end of the Spring Semester.  GMU has a history of doing very well in these competitions; I expect the same or better from you.


As noted by Norm Augustine, aerospace system developments led to much of what we use in systems engineering today and are a good surrogate for almost all large-scale, complex systems.  All projects this year are aerospace related and are used for: 1) The public availability of relevant data and complex simulation models; 2) Government/industrial sponsor interest and relationships with the SEOR department; 3) Related sponsored research in the department; 4) The availability of related system domain knowledge courses in the department (i.e. SYST 460/560).

Design Projects:


A.  Design Project: Design an automated airway system for a UAV cargo concept. Federal Aviation Administration Office of Aviation Research, 800 Independence Ave. Washington DC.


A concept of an airport-independent uninhabited air vehicle (UAV) cargo system has been suggested as one way to off-load cargo traffic from airports to save that capacity for passenger transports as well as to provide more efficient origin to destination cargo delivery.   The concept is for cargo UAVs to operate from an industrial park where the cargo originates to another destination industrial park.   For such a system to operate safely in the national airspace system (NAS), a new automated air traffic management (ATM) system is needed that supports operations to and from many locations around a metropolitan area.   The system should provide airways that are separate from normal air traffic controlled (ATC) aircraft and are as efficient for the UAVs as possible.  The design problem includes how the UAV airway system interacts with normal ATC.   It can be assumed that once a UAV airway is defined, ATC will honor it as dedicated 4-D airspace.  The airways should also be flexible to allow for weather conditions.   Finally it can be assumed that the UAVs would be turboprop aircraft and optimized for this type of operation.   This design problem is only to consider the cruise portion of flight.  Take-off, landing, and associated sequencing of aircraft will be addressed later.   A paper on the airport-independent UAV cargo system concept will be provided as background by the Team Advisor.


Sponsor:  FAA Office of Aviation Research, Dr. Herm Rediess, Team Advisor, supported by Mr. Francisco Estrada, FAA NEXTOR Program Manager (; Dr. Lance Sherry, Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.



B.  Design Project : Support to Raytheon’s Terminal Area Capacity Enhancement Concept (TACEC) activity.  Raytheon Command, Control, Communications and Information Systems, 1001 Boston Post Rd., Marlborough, Mass. 01752-3789,


As part of Raytheon’s Space Act Agreement support to the NASA AMES VAMS Program we are developing a future ATM concept focused on the Terminal and Surface domains. Our initial investigations led us to the fact that significantly increased capacity (2x+) in the terminal area can only be gained by;

1.)    Meeting the wake vortex avoidance requirement by a different approach than in-trail separation.

2.)    Adding more runways


Our concept achieves these goals by using the “Flight Corridor” approach to Wake Vortex (WV) avoidance combined with very closely spaced parallel approaches in all weather to provide the additional runways required.


Flight Corridors (based on initial work by Vern Rossow, NASA) are spatial regions “behind” aircraft which are wake hazard free. Like all WV spatial descriptions there is uncertainty in the actual boundaries of these corridors. This uncertainty increases as time (or distance behind the aircraft) grows. The closer two aircraft are together the more certain wake free regions are known. Wake vortex avoidance is achieved by flying aircraft closer together, not by in-trail spacing.


This closely spaced parallel flight formation naturally leads to the use of closely spaced parallel approaches. The benefits of CSPA’s are well documented, and the challenge of IFR operation well studied. Raytheon believes the technologies needed for VFR operation in IFR conditions will exist in 2020, and runway spacings of 750ft can become the norm. This translates into the kind of runway increases we need to double the NAS capacity, by greater utilization of today’s runways or by actually building new runways “between” existing ones.


Figures 1 & 2 illustrate the Flight Corridor and Parallel Approach concepts.


Suggested Task Descriptions for GMU involvement


1.      Key to closely spaced parallel approaches is the “Blunder” factor. Any parallel flight operation must account for errors in flight paths and the consequential reactions. GMU could support Raytheon’s analysis of these errors including;

·        Flight technical error – what are the characteristics of future (2020 vintage) aircraft flight controls and the nature of their likely errors? (Boeing could supply FTE simulation model)

·        Avoidance maneuvers – what are possible reactions required of aircraft when blunders do occur? (possible cooperation with Cockpit Resource Management Research in the PSYCH dept.)

·        Operational Concept definition – roles and responsibilities of AT manager and  flight crews for CSPA operation.

2.      Infrastructure to support TACEC operations involves not only the procedural implementation but also the airport facilities to accommodate the increased traffic loads. GMU analysis of alternative airport layouts to best support parallel arrival and departures, gate configurations, passenger accommodations would be helpful. (would require either TAAM simulation or ARENA simulation model development).

3.      Wake Vortex avoidance in TACEC requires similar performing aircraft on final approach to insure they maintain position in the required formation. Sequencing aircraft from arrival into the terminal airspace to the start of CSPA requires prescribed flight profiles that must be flown precisely such that the aircraft arrive at the final fix at the correct time. We envision this as an automated flight management system operation with profiles up-linked to the aircraft continuously. These flight profiles must dynamically deal with conflict avoidance, weather, emergencies, etc. Can GMU support Raytheon in generation of algorithms, process, or analysis of these dynamic flight profiles? (could involve work with either Boeing and/or Aurora).

4.      Although TACEC deals with Wake Vortex avoidance by operating aircraft close together this does not eliminate the need to impose in-trail spacing on those aircraft arriving on the next “wave.” Support to Raytheon’s concept evaluation is required to analyze the total capacity increase for the National Airspace System, hence total traffic flow analysis must be developed that combines CSPA with appropriate arrival rates for WV avoidance as well as departure flows.

























Figure 1

TACEC Flight Corridors









































Figure 2


Terminal Airspace Operations


Project Advisor: Dr. Philip F. Carrigan, Strategic Programs Air Traffic Systems (, Mr. Edward H. Stevens, Program Manager, Domestic ATC NASA Advanced Programs (, supported by Michael R. Olson, Senior Manager Trade Shows, ( Ph 508-490-3711


C.  Design Project: Asset Tracking Study for Sensis Corporation, 5793 Widewaters Parkway, DeWitt, NY 13214, 315-445-5711


The proposed Senior Student Project is a study of the operational benefits to the airlines of an asset tracking system for airline ground vehicles.  This study would investigate the possible ways an asset tracking system could be designed and the benefits that could be derived by different system features.


The first task is to totally understand and analyze the current systems of airline ground vehicle command, communications and control (C3). Deicing vehicles, fueling trucks, tugs, baggage carts, food and water supply vehicles, are all examples of ground operations that require coordinated C3.  The responsibilities of ramp tower controllers and ground crews along with the current technology should be understood and explained.


The second task is to determine how an asset tracking system could be used to improve C3.  The operational benefits, such as improved service and greater efficiency, need to be quantified.


The study should also indicate the importance of different features of such a system.  The study would include as a minimum, the operational benefit of the following capabilities:

-         Operational benefits of continuous asset location tracking versus updates at key operational milestones.

-         Operational benefits of location accuracy (is ramp area or communications cell sufficient accuracy or is GPS accuracy needed)

-         Operational benefits accrued from asset tracking broken down by the types of vehicles.

-         Operational benefits of an interactive datalink structure in which ground personnel input updates and milestones into the system, versus a system that is strictly surveillance.  This analysis should again be broken down by vehicle type.

-         Off-line modes in which the system could be used to perform post-mortem analysis of operations and features desirable to aid in this capability.


An airline partner will also need to be recruited. The operations analyzed should be at a hub airport for the partner airline.  FedEx in Memphis or Northwest in Detroit are possible partners that Sensis is currently working with.  A partner in the Washington DC area, such as Atlantic Coast Airlines or United Airlines at Dulles or USAir at National Airport, is also acceptable.


Project Advisor: Mr. Marc J. Viggiano, President Air Traffic Systems (


D.  Design Project:  Airport Runway Management under Weather Uncertainty. A Team Sponsorship consisting of: Sensis Corporation, Metron Aviation, FAA Terminal Business Unit, Raytheon Corp. ,NASA and the Volpe Research Center.


A major factor in nationwide airport delays is the reduction in aircraft arrival and departure rates at hub airports due to increased aircraft spacing requirements due to weather.  A new prototype system called the Corridor Integrated Weather System is producing probabilistic forecasts to airport Tower and TRACON aircraft control managers.  The Volpe Research Center (Dr. Gene Gilbo) has developed an Airport Arrival-Departure Optimization Decision Support System to produce optimum Network System performance.  NASA has developed and operational prototypes are under evaluation to provide Airport Surface Traffic Movement Advisories to FAA and Airline controllers.  These subsystems have never been integrated to provide Probabilistic and Network Optimized guidance to airport operational controllers.


Having accurate hold time estimates for both arriving and departing aircraft will also help in the planning of airline and air cargo operations.  A local airport, such as Washington National or Dulles International, could also be modeled.


The task is to develop a system interface set of specifications and simulate the performance of a prototype design.  The design would utilize Memphis Airport data and would involve FedEx as a potential customer.


The study should indicate:

-         The difficulties and solutions to overcoming those difficulties.

-         Experiment with different advance warning times and determine the accuracy (both desired and achievable).


Sensis would support the effort with knowledge and multilateration data sources from Memphis and Detroit. We could also provide some tools for extracting and analyzing data.


Program Mentor/Advisors:  Karl Grundmann NASA 202-220-3388, (, Marc Viggiano (SENSIS, Ed Stevens (Raytheon), Terry Thomson (METRON), Bill Voss or Wilson Felder (FAA), Dr. Jim Evans, MIT/LL and Univ. Calif. Berkley (



Program Schedule:


Aug. 23.   Read Preface and Chapter 1 of Augustine’s Laws.  Read two (2) chapters per week until the book is completed (i.e. 26 weeks)  You will be subject to an exam question on the mid term.


Aug. 25.  Introduction to the course, design problems and time-sheet system.  Background discussions and data exchange. Four teams will be formed based upon personal interest and required team balance.  Each team will select a Team Leader who has the best qualifications for leading the team to a successful project completion.  The team should also have sub teams consisting of : 1) process and data analysis team and 2) an analysis/ simulation team 3) Graphics, web page design/implementation, and presentation team.  Teams should insure that they have members who have completed Systems Engineering Management, Simulation and Decision Theory.  It is anticipated that team leadership duties may rotate throughout the 9-month period of the project (based upon demonstrated performance and workload considerations).  This is a 3 hour Lab course and thus a minimum of 9 hours/week is expected.


Each member of the class will give a substantial presentation at some point in the project to faculty and outside project sponsors. Each student will be graded upon his/her presentation ability.  The Project Proposal and the final Project Report will be graded for writing style and completeness.  The total project grade will represent a sizable portion of each student’s final grade.  In addition, each student will be ranked by each team member for total contribution to the program outcome. Each team member should have completed SYST 371 (Systems Engineering Management).  Each team should have students who have completed SYST 473 (Decision and Risk Analysis) and OR 335 (Discrete Systems Simulation Modeling).  Submit ranked design problem preference at the end of class.


August 27/September 3.  Introductory Lectures on Decision Theory and Practical tools for use in the design of your two-semester project. ( Prof. Loerch, guest lecturer )

September 8.  Finalize Team composition (i.e. Team Leader and Time Keeper, etc.) and Design Project Discussion in class. Background Research and Brainstorming Phase.

September 10/15. Discussion of Program Management Styles and Challenges , House of Quality Requirements Analysis and Earned Value Management/ Program Cost Estimation and Tracking.

September 17. Each Team present results of brainstorming and Initial House of Quality Requirements Matrix and Initial EVM cost schedule for the Fall and Spring Semester.

September 22.  Continue presentations

September 24. Present Initial Level 3 Work Breakdown Structure, Estimated Project Time Schedule and Gantt/PERT/CP Charts. 

September 29. Submit Revised Problem Definition and Preliminary Requirements Document, Proposed SOW, Revised Project Labor Cost Estimate for EVM tracking.

October 1. Team A Presentation *

October 6. Team B Presentation *

October 8.  Team C Presentation *

October 20 Team D Presentation *

October 22. Mid Term Exam

October 27/29. ATCA Conference, no class, attendance optional for extra credit

Nov. 3. Pass Back Exam and Discussion mid term team self evaluation

Nov. 5. Submit Draft Formal Proposals for Investment Decision I Review

Nov. 10/12. London Conference – No class meetings

Nov. 17. Return draft documents with comments, Team A Presentation *

Nov. 19. Team B Presentation *

Nov. 24. Team C Presentation *

Nov. 26 . Team D Presentation *

Dec 1.  Final Proposals submitted for Faculty and Sponsor evaluation

Dec 3.  Dry Run Presentations – Optional at Teams discretion

Dec 5.  Final Proposal Presentations to Faculty and Project Sponsors

Dec 15. Present first semester team self evaluation and Plan for second semester.  Revised Project Milestones


* Actual presentation order will be determined by random draw


Grading:  Each student’s final grade will be determined as follows:

25% Project Proposal and Final Project report (written)

20% Team Project productivity self evaluation

20% Faculty / Sponsor Evaluation of Team Presentation

10% Individual presentations

20% Mid-Term Exam

5% Timesheets/Notebooks