Automated Air Traffic Control

RacKicker

New Member
Automated Air Traffic Control

Hello everyone! I thought that I would start a new post about a topic that we should become familiar with. I have been interested in becoming an air traffic controller for over a year now. I have researched this job as much as I can on the internet and now I am looking for other sources to help answer some questions that I have.

Does anyone know more about Automated Air Traffic Control?

I have read some articles on the internet about the British that have developed software for automated control that will be ready by 2020. It would be great to get more information on this topic. I would be hesitant to start a career that would be almost obsolete by 2020 if this information were true. There are numerous sub questions that can be asked about this topic, mostly relating to the future of air traffic control beyond the scope of the next ten years. Even with this news I doubt that computers will run the entire system in less then 12 years. I have actually come across several articles on the internet that all talk about different software and methods for producing pure automated air traffic control. What is the reality of this happening? I am sure at some level the system becomes more and more automated everyday. Then where would the logic be in hiring so many new controllers if we are all going to be out of a job in a little more then a decade?

Reality of Automated Control

Not a question of “if” but a question of “when.” With the development of technology today I think it would be safe to assume that in the next 30 years the system will be mostly automated. What will happen to the air traffic controller?

Applied Public 5/02/08
Took AT-SAT 7/14/08- "well-qualified"
Now: Trying to get more info
 

Piker

New Member
With the development of technology today I think it would be safe to assume that in the next 30 years the system will be mostly automated. What will happen to the air traffic controller?
I've been more concerned about technology affecting the job than most people, but I haven't read anything that would make me agree with your conclusion for the larger airports.

Traffic patterns are incredibly complex systems. You're assuming that people would willingly put their safety in the hands of a computer. Your also assuming that the computer could account for something as dynamic as changing weather patterns, a damaged aircraft, or a pilot who doesn't know what he's doing. There's literally hundreds of other possibilities. How would the computer handle a 9/11 situation. Even if you have the computing power and the positioning system in place, there's simply too many variables to turn the computer loose. You would still need people to oversee the entire system so there's a redundancy that calls the automation into question in the first place.

Smaller airport terminals might be automated. I don't see the advantages of automating larger facilities. The only area might be en route, but again, the factors I mentioned call into question the advantage of automation.

In the end, you have technology altering but not killing off the job--just like every job in the country.
 

BoomerSooner77

New Member
I am not really sure if this is comparative or not, but I thought I would share anyways.

Within the Customer Service industry technology has increased at a drastic rate to automate most things (as many of you know with the 'fake' automated rep, etc). In years past, and in many cases they still do it this way, before complex call routing was the norm it was actually peoples jobs (traffic analysts) to manually change agents into certain call queues to answer calls that came into different departments in order to keep the wait time down. This involved similar to ATC constantly watching a monitor of what types of calls were coming into the call center compared to what departments or agents could be used on the fly to assist in taking calls in the 'secondary' skills (rerouting traffic manually). I would say normally in a call center you had approximately 1 traffic analyst for every 75-100 agents.

After more technology came into play that did the rerouting of calls around based on how it was programmed it was believed that you could dramatically cut down or eliminate traffic analysts. It was quickly discovered that this was just not the case. In fact what was discovered was it was only the function of the traffic analysts that changed. The new role of traffic analysts is to still monitor on a screen what the automation is doing and reprogram the routing as necessary on a real time basis to still control where calls are going as well as taking on some additional duties such as analyzing results of the automation and discovering shortfalls or new needs required from automation as well as handling another new technology the helps the traffic analysts monitor shift schedule adherence (I guess this would be similar to ensuring an aircraft was set up to succeed in on time departs/arrivals?) and other ancillary duties while still having 1 traffic analyst to every 75-100 agents.

I am not sure if this really helped explain it or not, but I would be willing to bet that future automation will not take away all of the staff requirements, but I am certain that the role of the ATC will evolve. Even if the workload were to lessen, it wouldn't be statistically insignificant and could most likely be handled by normal attrition both voluntary and involuntary. Hmm, I think I may have confused the issue.
 

esswun

New Member
I've been trying to learn a little about the new GPS based system ADS-B to track planes, terrain and weather.

It still requires a controller but it is all updates in real time as the planes moves, speeds up, slows down, etc. and the pilot and controller can see the same things at the same time. It also works in areas where there is little or no radar availablity. It will also allow them to separate aircraft at a much smaller distance.

Mind you, I'm using very lay terms here and don't know a lot about it but it seems very powerful. The positioning satellites and computers are doing a lot of work and updating so fast in real time that it is a lot more "automated" than many things probably are.

But like it was stated before: nothing is going to just replace a real person. At least not until they have supercomputers powerful enough and affordable enough to calculate so many possibilities. By that time I hope we have space flight anyway.
 

Joe28

New Member
I've been trying to learn a little about the new GPS based system ADS-B to track planes, terrain and weather.

It still requires a controller but it is all updates in real time as the planes moves, speeds up, slows down, etc. and the pilot and controller can see the same things at the same time. It also works in areas where there is little or no radar availablity. It will also allow them to separate aircraft at a much smaller distance.

Mind you, I'm using very lay terms here and don't know a lot about it but it seems very powerful. The positioning satellites and computers are doing a lot of work and updating so fast in real time that it is a lot more "automated" than many things probably are.

But like it was stated before: nothing is going to just replace a real person. At least not until they have supercomputers powerful enough and affordable enough to calculate so many possibilities. By that time I hope we have space flight anyway.
essentially, the goal of the ADS-B is to create a larger National Airspace System (NAS) by reducing seperation minimums. for example, right now planes are seperated by 1,000 feet of vertical seperation. the plan is to knock that number down to 500 feet. although the size of the sky is unchangeable (to those of us who are not god :)), the plan is to put more metal into the sky within that same amount of space. (how much blood can you squeeze out of a rock? :p) upon implementing this system, seperation will indeed be more in the hands of the pilot as they will receive messages to climb / descend (similar to the garmin fish finder, for the pilots out there :)) and supposedly change headings. i think a lot of this plan hinges on whether the general flying public will mind knowing that the distance of their aircraft in relation to other aircraft in the sky has been essentially halved. not to mention, is it a good idea to impose such a system creating more responsibility for the guys with the nice window seat up front? only time will tell.

as far as job security goes... i do not think ATC's will be replaced within our tenure. i do not think the public or the government is ready for such a change. hell, how long has it taken the government to put new shiny equipment into the towers? (which by the way i think the new automation is great... judging from my tour of ORD's tower). to make a long story short, i believe new automation will definitely come into the field and change the job of an ATC but i would not lose sleep over worrying about a computer taking over your job.
 

KindaRadley

New Member
I have a quick way to solve this one...

Look at the equipment that controllers are using and working with now... made circa 1980? The government & FAA has been TOO far behind in updating the systems. I'm not concerned that ATC is going to be automated during my career...
 

esw2005

Well-Known Member
Just for the sake of it.....could you imagine an "i,ROBOT" scenario in the skies? Where the "automated air traffic" control goes haywire. :panic:
 

menglish1

Well-Known Member
Ask Airbus how automated flight controls went for them. They had computers take control and wouldn't allow certain things during landing flares and other phases of flight here is what happend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EM0hDchVlY

Things in aviation tend to move slow G/A engines are basically old tractor technology. This crash was caused by a computer not letting the pilot do a go around and look what happend. I agree we will see much more intagration with atc technology but you won't see humans being out of the loop in our lifetime. IMHO
 
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