Will Air Traffic Controllers be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future?

Air Traffic Controllers typically do the following: Monitor and direct the movement of aircraft on the ground and in the air, control all ground traffic at airport runways and taxiways and issue landing and take-off instructions to pilots.

Tasks of an Air Traffic Controller:

  • Monitor or direct the movement of aircraft within an assigned air space or on the ground at airports to minimize delays and maximize safety.
  • Transfer control of departing flights to traffic control centres and accept control of arriving flights.
  • Relay air traffic information, such as courses, altitudes, or expected arrival times, to control centres.
  • Maintain radio or telephone contact with adjacent control towers, terminal control units, or other area control centres to coordinate aircraft movement.
  • Check conditions and traffic at different altitudes in response to pilots’ requests for altitude changes.
  • Review records or reports for clarity and completeness and maintain records or reports as required under federal law.
  • Contact pilots by radio to provide meteorological, navigational, or other information.
  • Determine the timing or procedures for flight vector changes.
  • Provide flight path changes or directions to emergency landing fields for pilots traveling in bad weather or in emergency situations.
  • Compile information about flights from flight plans, pilot reports, radar, or observations.
  • Provide on-the-job training to new air traffic controllers.
  • Analyse factors such as weather reports, fuel requirements, or maps to determine air routes.
  • Inspect, adjust, or control radio equipment or airport lights.
  • Alert airport emergency services in cases of emergency or when aircraft are experiencing difficulties.
  • Initiate or coordinate searches for missing aircraft.
  • Complete daily activity reports and keep records of messages from aircraft.
  • Issue landing and take-off authorizations or instructions.
  • Direct pilots to runways when space is available or direct them to maintain a traffic pattern until there is space for them to land.
  • Inform pilots about nearby planes or potentially hazardous conditions, such as weather, speed and direction of wind, or visibility problems.
  • Direct ground traffic, including taxiing aircraft, maintenance or baggage vehicles, or airport workers.
  • Monitor aircraft within a specific airspace, using radar, computer equipment, or visual references.
  • Organize flight plans or traffic management plans to prepare for planes about to enter assigned airspace.
  • Conduct pre-flight briefings on weather conditions, suggested routes, altitudes, indications of turbulence, or other flight safety information.

Source: replacebyrobot

Currently, airspace is used by different users – commercial airlines, general aviation, military, balloons, paragliders and drones. Naturally, in order to ensure orderly, safe air traffic and to meet the needs of all users, it is also necessary to ensure safe airspace management. Those performing these functions could also come from artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence would allow more efficient use of airspace, save time, prevent traffic jams, but it requires a lot of testing before it can be properly utilized, through certain automation functions, alert air traffic controllers well in advance of possible airborne convergence, thereby helping to prevent dangerous situations. The automated functions would help not only pilots but also air traffic controllers.

Automation already assists in the processing of data as well as attempts to free the controller from formal, routine functions such as establishing and maintaining communication, etc. Because air navigation services are provided during each phase of the flight, even while the aircraft is on the ground, good communication between airport ground operations, pilots and aerodrome control centres is essential. Artificial intelligence can do this well. 

Looking at the tasks performed by an Air Traffic Controller, consciousness plays a big role and distinguishes humans from robots, so the air traffic controller – the person making the final decisions will not be replaced by any machine. Certain concepts of artificial intelligence can help a person to perform technical work, provide information, offer solutions. In the future, the specifics of the work of an air traffic controller will change. He or she will have to do much less technical work, more monitoring and decisive decisions.

Source: FoxATM