As we set a course for the new year, we thought it was a good time to reflect on our most popular web content for 2016; it gives us the chance to look again not just at the blog, but also our popular Discover features and the Drone Assist app.

Skies Above Britain TV show

For #avgeeks the highlight of the television year was probably the series which aired on BBC2 from August 2016 called Skies Above Britain. The series provided a unique insight into what NATS does every day of the year and also gave us an opportunity to share lots more information on what we do, including blogs on Becoming an air traffic controller, Engineering the Skies, Heathrow after dark and data visualisations, including showing what a day of bad weather looks like in the skies. We also introduced Airspace+, which uses aircraft positional data to create near real-time visualisations of air traffic worldwide.

Supporting the safe use of drones with Drone Assist

Drones continued to hit the headlines in 2016, not always for the right reasons.  There was an increase in the number of near-misses between drones and commercial aircraft; and they became one of the must-have’s for Christmas.

Safety is our first priority, and since drone flyers also need to think about the safety of other airspace users, we’ve done a lot of work to help raise awareness and help people understand their responsibilities. This included the #12DaysOfDrones campaign and a new app we developed with Altitude Angel called Drone Assist, available free on Android and iOS. The app is designed to help identify areas of controlled and restricted airspace and help drone pilots enjoy flying whilst ensuring their safety and the safety of others.

We also worked with the CAA, and with support from various aviation organisations, to launch – a one-stop information portal for all the rules around safely flying drones, including useful tips on the Drone Code, other CAA guidance around flying drones and advice on training for people using drones commercially.

And we were LIVE at the UK Drones Show in Birmingham in December to explain more about the Drone Assist app.

The Sky’s the Limit

If we don’t redesign the UK’s ageing airspace structures and flight paths, delays are set to rise from around 90,000 minutes a year to 4 million by 2030. The Sky’s the Limit group – a coalition of aviation organisations representing airports, airlines and air traffic control – was set up in 2016 to explain how the airspace can be modernised to work better to support today’s modern jet aircraft and to cope with the forecast traffic growth of 3.1 million flights by 2030.

In December The Sky’s the Limit coalition called on the government and politicians to support the changes that it describes as urgent and necessary.

Intelligent Approach webinar

We hosted a live webcast on the concept of Intelligent Approach. Viewers from airlines, airports and ANSPs across the world tuned in to watch and ask questions about the tools that enable Intelligent Approach – including Time Based Separation (TBS) and Pairwise Separation – techniques that can offer major improvements for capacity constrained high performance airports.

We had so many questions in the webinar that we followed up with a blog to answer them.

We also marked one year of Time-Based Separation in live operation, which on average has allowed us to land 2.9 additional aircraft an hour on strong wind days and cut Air Traffic Flow Management delays caused by headwinds by up to 60%.

Redesigning ATM

Last year we looked at our technological revolution and how NATS and the aviation industry are changing. This included iTEC, a real-time predictive analytics tool and the Single European Sky (SES) initiative, which will treble Europe’s current airspace capacity, underwritten by SESAR. Our Discover feature Redesigning the Skies also included the new System Wide Information Management (SWIM) concept, using highly reliable and super-secure technology and XMAN, the arrival-management tool being used at London’s busiest airport, Heathrow.

Instagram – Day in the Life

As Instagram is so popular, especially with young people, we ran a campaign called #dayinthelife, an image-based feature following trainee air traffic controllers (TATCs) and telling their stories of how they came to join NATS and start their careers with us. The posts proved very popular and hopefully will encourage people to think about a career as an air traffic controller.

NATS operations and controllers on Facebook Live

We also came to you live on Facebook from our Swanwick and Prestwick control centres giving a further glimpse into the operation in action, as well as our simulator training area. We talked about the various aspects of the operation: controlling over the Atlantic Ocean, the impact of bad weather or infringements into controlled airspace; training for unusual circumstances and emergencies; and what it’s like to be a trainee.

All Facebook Live videos can still be seen on the video section of our page

Thank you for your continued interest in NATS and our content, across all platforms. If there’s anything you would like us to include or if you’d like to tell us which bit about NATS you enjoyed most in 2016, let us know by leaving a comment below.

We look forward to bringing you more news, information and our thoughts on the latest airspace trends over 2017. Happy New Year!




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