Technology

Airspace is our invisible infrastructure: we might not be able to see it, but it is as important as our roads, our railways and our runways.

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Humans are at the heart of air traffic management. However, the tools and technologies we put in place to support them can make a big difference to the job they’re able to do.

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We wanted to find ways in which we could increase engagement with the non-ATM community, rather than just expecting stakeholders to interpret a 200 page report.

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As with many other critical safety-based services, ATC provides a service that must be delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so will technology ever replace the more advanced aspects of the human?

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Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) or “drones” are now well established in the public consciousness. Safety agency EASA has launched a public consultation on their new regulatory framework, which will enable drone operators greater access to the airspace used by manned aviation.

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We created a data visualisation to play at US events – USA 24. This is similar to our award-winning Europe 24 and UK 24 – this time showing air traffic patterns over the USA and highlighting the busiest airports.

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Automation has a major role to play in the future of air traffic management. People are key to the success of any automation; how they design, monitor and maintain the systems and tools available to controllers, and how those tools are used. It’s something we’re dedicating a lot of attention to and I was pleased to be invited to discuss this at a recent Flight Safety Foundation Forum in Brussels.

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The display at the National Museum of Computing has a controller workstation from the 1980’s alongside a state of the art simulation of systems from the Swanwick Centre and a busy airport tower. We’ve added some historical artefacts and a timeline of NATS linkages with Bletchley Park to celebrate our joint heritage. If you are interested in computers or air traffic control, the museum is an excellent day out and if you visit I hope you enjoy what we’ve put together.

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Every year the International Air Transport Association (IATA) brings its members together for an Operations Conference. This year the conference was in Los Angeles and focused on the challenge and opportunity from introducing new technology to enhance safety, efficiency and capacity.

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