UCL Energy Institute


Air Transportation Systems Lab

Air transportation is a vital enabler of growth in the economy and quality of life through empowering trade and tourism. At the same time, its large and still growing scale generates undesirable effects, such as air traffic delays and environmental impacts at the local, regional, and global level. Emerging from the Institute for Aviation and the Environment at the University of Cambridge, the Air Transportation Systems Laboratory explores the interaction between air transportation, the economy, and the environment. Our work is data-driven, using physical science, econometrics, and operations research-based methods. 

In addition to in-house research, we have been collaborating on research projects with universities in the UK (Cranfield University, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Southampton) and abroad (École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile, GeorgiaTech, ETH Zurich, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), along with colleagues at US federally-funded research centers (MIT Lincoln Laboratory and NASA Ames). Our primary funding has come from the UK Research Councils, the European Commission, UK Government departments, and the aviation industry.

For more details, including our open-source model and publications, visit our website.

Our research interests

Our research tackles a fundamental question: how can society continue to enjoy the advantages of our expanding air transportation system, while controlling the undesired impacts of air traffic delay and environmental effects? In response, our lab develops unique models of the global aviation ecosystem. At the moment, these comprise three main research activities.

Aviation Integrated Modelling

Airplane in flight
The Aviation Integrated Model (AIM), which has been developed since 2006, consists of interlinked modules simulating current and future levels of global airport-to-airport demand, flight schedules, arrival delay, technology uptake, aircraft performance, local and global emissions, aircraft noise, and the related environmental costs and economic benefits under a wide range of policy conditions. This open-source model has been used for policy analyses funded by the UK Government and the European Commission, among others. 

Airline Behaviour Modelling

Airplane stationed at airport
Quantifying the local and global implications of airport capacity expansions and from the introduction of disruptive technology requires a high-resolution approach. Whereas AIM builds upon one global representative airline, this more disaggregate model simulates individual airline behaviour: each airline maximises its profits within its flight network by deciding on the segment flight frequency, itinerary airfare, and the aircraft deployment along each route. The Airline Behaviour Model has been developed for several parts of the world—a global version is anticipated for 2023.

Airport Behaviour Modelling

Airplanes stationed at airport
As with the Airline Behaviour Model, modelling airport behaviour requires an airport-level approach, in which each airport maximises its profits by adjusting aeronautical and non-aeronautical charges. This model is currently under development and will be linked to the Airline Behaviour Model once operational.

Recent projects

Solving the complex challenges faced by the world’s aviation system require a multi-disciplinary approach.  We have been collaborating with leading experts at other universities along with aircraft manufacturers, airports, and airlines.

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Our researchers

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Andreas W. Schafer
Director of Research
Chair in Energy and Transport
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Lynnette Dray
Principal Research Fellow
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Khan Doyme
Research Fellow in Airline Behaviour Modelling
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Yagmur Simge Gök
Research Fellow in Airline Behaviour Modelling
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Joanna Kuleszo
Research Fellow
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Olivier Dessens
Senior Research Associate in Climate Modelling
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Peggy Li
PhD student
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Boning Wang
PhD student
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