Whitepaper: Will digital transformation make ATC towers obsolete?
Air traffic control towers are as expensive as they are iconic, and are rapidly going the way of the Pan Am Clipper. Virtual systems now provide real-time understanding of the traffic picture without looking out a window, and mixed reality will potentially change the way controllers work.
Why look out the window?
Despite the great strides that have been made, air traffic management still relies largely on principles and technologies that were developed decades ago. The ATC tower window is often the controllers’ main source of information while giving clearances to aircraft landing, taking off, or taxiing to and from the gate. Obstacles such as hangars and stands, poor weather conditions, and far-distant runways all present challenges, and ATC instructions are usually still given by voice communication to the pilots although data-link messaging and automatic routing and guidance are features being tested and implemented at forward-looking airports.
Big data applies to airports too
But at most airports, all the information needed by the controller is already available digitally. Big data is increasingly utilised by airports to better analyse market demand, optimise security control and enhance the passenger experience. The use of big data analytics is now being put to work to better understand how passenger behavior can impact air traffic management.
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