Imagining the future is a tricky business. The fun part is letting your imagination run free, thinking impossible thoughts, connecting far distant dots and dreaming the sky in a new shade of blue.
In NATS we do a lot of this. While we deliver our well rehearsed services day to day we’re also engaged in a permanent process of wondering how to do things better and this thinking spills into our collaborations around the world.
More tricky is the process of explaining these concepts to other people and for this you need to make them tangible. We have our fair share of strategy documents and PowerPoint presentations but we’ve recently discovered that animation is an elegant way to turn complex concepts into simple stories that others can relate to and build upon.
Glimpse of the Future is the first of a series of animated stories that examine these ideas from a distinctly human perspective so that we humans can connect with them. It touches upon many aspects of our future operation; automation, training, staffing, 4D trajectory management, network management, flexible use of airspace, communication and many others. The ideas are not explained, indeed for the time being I’d say they’re inexplicable, certainly un-implementable.
They’re imperfect, incomplete and implausible but this doesn’t make them wrong. The very best ideas sound pretty doubtful in the beginning, like a self-mentoring Controller Working Position or a tool to help you balance the different demands of efficiency and the environment in real time. We’re using the animations to examine their delicate imperfections, connect them with other ideas, add missing detail and build them into a plausible reality.
It’s had an interesting effect on our internal debate. Like most in our industry we have a history of delivering good engineering solutions. For 50 years we’ve delivered solid services using solid equipment. Most of the imagination that got us here was done long ago so there’s been a tendency to focus on fine-tuning the here and now; the hardware, software, the procedure, the airspace.
There is something magical about seeing a crusty engineer and an air traffic controller let go of this comfortable reality and leap forward to discuss whether Suzie – the lead character in our story – has eyewear that might be integrated with her kitchen and her car as well as her working position, or whether the chair also monitors her vital signs to update her medical records.
In the end it’s not good enough to just imagine the future; you have to go on to deliver it.
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