Artificial Intelligence: After Bank Holiday Flight Chaos, UK Organizations Collaborate On AI-Powered Air Traffic Control
Scientists have developed an AI model to take over air traffic control from human beings.
Researchers in the UK have developed a computer model of air traffic control powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This “digital twin” of England’s airspace is the outcome of a £15 million project known as Project Bluebird, a collaboration between National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the Alan Turing Institute, Exeter University, and government funding through UK Research and Innovation.
The AI system aims to advise and potentially replace human air traffic controllers. The motivations behind this project include optimizing flight routes for fuel efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of aviation, as well as minimizing delays and congestion at busy airports like London’s Heathrow. Additionally, there is a shortage of trained air traffic controllers, which would take several years to address. (FT)
Glitches in the current system, such as the one that occurred on the last bank holiday, may also be avoided using AI. On that day, the system failed due to its inability to identify a flight plan containing conflicting information. This incident led to significant disruptions in travel. The Civil Aviation Authority has initiated an investigation to determine the cause of the issue, and airlines are seeking compensation from NATS as a result.
The AI system, which leverages a comprehensive database of past flight records, is being tested alongside human controllers and aims to enhance air traffic control’s resilience and response to unexpected events. However, it won’t have the authority to make final routing decisions.
If successful, this research could lead to more extensive operational trials before considering a full-scale computer-controlled system.
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