ARCTIC proposes an ambitious program to change the conceptual framework used to analyse air transport, inspired by the way the brain is studied in neuroscience. It is based on understanding air transport as an information processing system, in which the movement of aircraft is merely a vehicle for information transfer. Airports then become computational units, receiving information from their neighbours through inbound flights under the form of delays; processing it in a potentially non-linear way; and redistributing the result to the system as outbound delays. As already common in neuroscience, such computation can be made explicit by using a combination of information sciences and statistical physics techniques: from the detection of information movements through causality metrics, up to the representation of the resulting transfer structures through complex networks and their topological properties. The approach also entails important challenges, e.g. the definition of appropriate metrics or the translation of the obtained insights into implementable policies.
ARCTIC’s methodology will be used over the next five years to characterize and model delay propagation, as well as to limit its societal and economic impact.