There can be no doubt that India is one of the world’s most dynamic aviation markets. With record orders for new aircraft, there are now more on order than in the air, and with 100+ new airports in the pipeline and a record of 456,082 domestic passengers in a single day in May this year, demand to fly is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels signalling a new era of post-pandemic growth. 

Last month saw the coming together of organisations tasked with managing that growth and preparing for a future where air traffic is predicted to double over the next fifteen years. Our joint Digitisation of Air Traffic Management workshop with Airports Authority of India was a great opportunity to talk, to share knowledge and to discuss the demands of that future and how technology transformation can help the industry get ahead of the curve.  

While not long ago, terminals and towers were the focus, the future is now all about technology and data. The key is embracing new ATM technology that drives and enables growth within a framework of efficiency, sustainability, safety and improved passenger experience.   

And at the heart of that technology is an intelligent application of data, be that scheduling, global and local weather patterns, historic performance trends, digital imagery, flow management data and more, and how that can be harnessed to enhance performance and deliver greater value from existing assets.   

The role of digital and hybrid ‘towers’, both in terms of their operational benefits but also as a way of enabling airport growth, was a key point of discussion.  In the past, plans for a new runway, contingency facility or terminal might have necessitated the building of a new tower, but now with technology, many airports and ANSPs are looking at supporting their expansion technology.  This is the solution that is enabling large-scale expansion plans like in Hong Kong, driving forward their airport transformation plans.  

Airports Authority of India and NATS Joint Strategic Workshop on Digitization of ATM

We also discussed Intelligent Approach (IA), a controller tool that dynamically calculates the space between aircraft based on conditions rather than set distances, and the ‘Digital Twin’ Demand Capacity Balancer (DCB), which gives airports the ability to manage the schedule proactively to avoid disruption and deliver the best possible performance every day.   

For capacity constrained airports, regardless of using segregated or mixed mode operations, IA helps to maintain landing rates and thereby boost runway capacity.  DCB supports an enjoyable passenger experience – smoothly run airports with carefully choreographed flights consistently running to schedule. These are tried and tested technology solutions that have delivered overnight benefits at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, including the seamless adoption of RECAT separation standards, and a transformation in operational planning at London Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports. 

Fast forward to 2040:  1 billion annual passengers a day need a robust roadmap to manage capacity, cost and operational constraints   Expert analysis, forward thinking stakeholders and industry leading technology all have an important part to play in the technology transformation that will make it a reality. 


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