Published on : Monday, February 20, 2017
NATS – the UK’s air traffic control provider formerly known as National Air Traffic Services is going to introduce a new £600m ($747m) computer system, which will be known as iTec and will be responsible for accommodating more flights on the skies with fewer delays and a cleaner airspace for all.
With the new air traffic management (ATM), Chief architect Simon Daykin said that it could be one of the biggest transformations” in the organisation’s 56-year history.
The project is expected to be complete by 2020.
Managing the 2.2 million flights that cross UK airspace each year is complicated enough, but with that number forecast to rise to three million by 2030, it became clear that the current system – which dates back 40 years – would need an overhaul, explains Mr Daykin.
Although it will not be much noticed by the travellers, the most significant changes that the new ATM will bring is the desertion of the network of invisible “roads” in the sky which all the aircraft currently follow as their ‘route’.
Now air traffic controllers, using predictive analytics software called iFacts, will be able to predict the path of aircraft as much as 18 minutes in advance, says Mr Daykin. He continued saying that the new system in effect, the management can get an earlier view of where congestion will be in the sky and tweak flight paths and would eventually lead to less re-routing.
Adding time management to the mix means controllers will be operating in four dimensions, not just the usual three of latitude, longitude and altitude. Another benefit of applying clever analytics to the skies is that flights can be made more energy efficient. Presently, planes have to stagger their ascents and descents, climbing or dropping to set altitudes at certain points throughout the journey.
The new system will have to handle a huge increase in real-time data, for which NATS is developing their own private cloud. All the data will be held in dedicated UK-based data centres.