New Zealand's IT and digital technology industries are renowned for their willingness to push the boundaries of innovation. Now, the aviation sector could be facing massive changes as New Zealand digital tech outfit Airways has successfully trialled a prototype digital air traffic control tower in Auckland airport.
The system is designed to increase aviation safety, enhance resilience and improve traffic flow, meaning it could help to address the limitations of current procedures. With this in mind, here are three reasons digital air traffic control could be the future of aviation.
1. Increase aviation safety
Ensuring all passengers and crew are safe at takeoff and landing requires a significant amount of coordination and skill from air traffic controllers. Using digital systems can help air traffic controllers become more aware of all potential hazards on the runway – especially risks to safety that may be out of eyesight.
"Cameras could automatically track objects that are fast moving or otherwise hard to see, such as birds – which are a serious hazard to aircraft,'' says Airways Chief Operating Officer, Pauline Lamb
''In low light or bad weather, technology like infrared would provide controllers with heightened visibility too."
Leaving air traffic controllers to rely on sight alone to do their jobs is the way of the past – digital technology that can accurately track hazards and paint a better picture of runway operations is the way of the future. The IT sector supporting the development of capable technology will be key too.
Air transport in New Zealand will increase by over 4 per cent per annum over the next 20 years
2. Enhance resilience
New technology that can help air traffic controllers combine greater efficiency with increased safety practices, no matter the conditions, is a big step for New Zealand's growth.
Digital air traffic control systems can process data even in stormy conditions – flights grounded by bad weather or emergencies enroute are prone to landing risks. Giving operators the tools to make fast decisions accurately can be the key to saving lives.
3. Improve traffic flow
Air transport in New Zealand will increase by over 4 per cent per annum over the next 20 years1. Coupled with increasing numbers of rockets, drones and other aerial objects, ensuring regular traffic flow at airports will be vital in coming years.
Airways digital air traffic control tower makes use of data capture and logging systems to comprehensively record all activity on the runway. Human operators can use this data to process more accurate schedules for flight arrivals and departures. Using real-time information also means they can ensure all flights are running according to schedule and are not unnecessarily delayed due to administrative errors or inefficiency.
The best in the aviation industry will be allowed to their job even better – with the help of digital innovators like Airways.
Finding safer and more efficient digital solutions for controlling air traffic at New Zealand airports will be a key part of the country's future growth.
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1– Airways statistics.