The fact is that nowadays more and more people prefer travelling by air because it is more comfortable, quicker and even cheaper than other means of transportation. Air companies have to establish new routes and add more flights to meet the rapidly developing international air market. But not only airlines have to work harder. I’d like to consider the work of air traffic controllers that gets more demanding with each passing year as the number of flights increases. The solution to the looming crisis is the development of new technologies such as «Alpha» ATM-system and a “Remote Tower” which simplify the ATC service and enhance the flight safety.
One of the mentioned above systems is an automated system «Alpha» of the 5th generation. Its main function is to automate some ATC processes. Besides, it has some additional functions that were absent in previous versions, such as Trajectory prediction, Long Term Conflict Detection or LTCD function, Monitoring Aids or MONA and System Supported Coordination or SYSCO.
The first, Trajectory Prediction, using the information of the flight plan and radio-navigation data from navigation systems, radars or ADS, computes the 4D trajectory of the flight path. As for LTCD function, it enables ATCOs to determine the potential conflict between aircraft even before their take off. It is extremely useful because controllers can solve potential conflict more effectively.
The next function, Monitoring Aids (MONA), helps to control whether the pilot complies with ATC instructions or not. The ATCO will be immediately alerted if the aircraft changes flight conditions without ATC clearance. This function is especially useful for airports with very busy air traffic where even small changes of flight configuration can lead to disastrous consequences. It helps to detect dangerous situations in time and solve them without any conflicts.
Another function of the automated system is called System Supported Coordination (SYSCO). Every plane flies through a lot of ATC zones and controllers should transfer the information about this flight to the next ATC unit which will serve this flight. The procedure can take up to 7 minutes. The new function allows controllers to get or to give information about the aircraft not only via radio communication but also with the help of computer, which in this case takes less time. So there are generally recognized benefits for both efficiency and considerable reduction in the workload of ATCOs.
All stated functions of Alpha» ATM-system give ATCOs new opportunities, which they didn’t have before and enhance flight safety.
There is one more system called a “Remote Tower”, which is supposed to make a revolution in aviation. The system is designed by Swedish aviation company SAAB. This creation is an integrated package of subsystems which simplify the provision of a range of conventional ATS in some distant parts of the world. The “Remote Tower” is intended to substitute ordinary Towers in small airports. It gives ATCOs opportunity to control take offs and landings at a distance. This system consists of high definition cameras which are installed in the aerodromes, surveillance and meteorological sensors, microphones, signal light guns and other devices for the deployment at the airport. They transmit the high definition images to controller’s monitors so the ATCOs can see the live video of every airport which is under their control. All relevant information is transferred via a data network to an integrated controller working place at the Remote Tower Centre. A comprehensive suite of images and video compression provides optimal image resolution. The ‘Remote Tower’ makes it possible to provide air traffic services at airports with low traffic and has the potential to add services to airports without towers today. The technology also helps to improve safety and to lower costs. The first airport where the ‘Remote Control Tower’ was launched and tested is Ornsheldsvik, a small town in the north of Sweden. With the help of 14 high-quality cameras ATCOs guide traffic there from another Swedish airport Sundsvall which is situated 200 km from Ornsheldsvik. SAAB is going to equip some airports of the USA, Mexico, Singapore and Norway with this system by 2018.
In conclusion I would like to note that of course it is rather difficult and it takes a lot of time to launch and familiarize all personnel with new features but it should be done because these modern automated systems for controlling air traffic can solve most problems that civil aviation faces today and they are also the most important elements in significant retooling of Air Traffic Control System in the future.