Air traffic management is a key part of aviation safety. The projected increase in passenger traffic in the future may result in increased delays. It may also worsen the environmental carbon footprint if everything else remains constant. The air traffic management system must be revolutionized through the implementation of efficient measures to guarantee the safety of planes flying around the world.

Being a critical component of the economy, the air transport sector should find ways to meet the growing demands of all stakeholders. It contributed over $3.5 trillion to the world GDP in 2018. Air transport also employs over 80 million people worldwide. To prevent passenger traffic from exceeding the available capacity, the Air Traffic Management community has begun putting technological measures in place that may see the full digitalization of the sector.

Digitalization of the Air Traffic Management System

According to the IATA, passenger traffic worldwide is projected to hit approximately 7.8 billion people per year in 2040. The ATM community should digitalize the aviation sector more to help ease congestion and increase safety. Digitalization can allow various users and automation to remotely manage air traffic, seamlessly. If done right, flights can be more predictable due to increased network capacity. The reduced flight routes may help reduce the carbon footprint on the environment.

Improvement of the GPS Navigation Systems

GPS is an innovative technology that allows pilots to fly anywhere in the world without having to rely on ground-based navigation systems. While GPS is a critical part of aviation navigation today, it’s extremely volatile to rely only on it.

The ATM community and other aviation authorities worldwide should strive to have a backup navigation system in the event something happens to the satellite system. There are inherent limitations in using one piece of technology alone. 

Adoption of the Autonomous Flight Termination Systems (AFTS)

The AFTS (Autonomous Flight Termination System) is an independently configured flight software that’s mounted to a launch vehicle. It’s specially configured to independently terminate a flight. AFTS can also avert redundant flight decisions made on faulty flight processors using data from defective GPS or other navigation sensors. This technology can help pilots who may have performed unsafe actions while in the air due to various factors such as unfavorable weather conditions. 

Use of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) System

ADS-B allows air traffic controllers to see and track airplanes more accurately on their screens. While ADS-B is being rolled out across the world, it will take a while to complete. The system uses GPS signals to track planes in areas where there are no ground-based systems or satellite radar.

ADS-B can help pilots navigate through busy airspace and keep them safe if they get lost. It may also be helpful if a pilot needs to find another airport for an emergency landing.

Combination of Satellites and Ground-Based Systems

Satellites will still be in use, and so will ground-based systems. Apart from allowing planes to fly safely, satellites provide navigation information that directs pilots to navigate through unfavorable weather conditions. Satellites can also help track planes at the airport. This allows operators at the control centers to keep tabs on all aircrafts in the vicinity.

Purpose to Reduce the Carbon Footprint

The aviation industry is responsible for about 14.1% of all CO2 emissions worldwide — from both human (2.1%) and transport sources (12%). Efforts to consciously decrease environmental pollution should continue even as air traffic increases in the coming years. The anticipated Single European Sky is likely to reduce air pollution by at least 10%.

Air Traffic Control Is a Complex Matter

Air traffic control is a complex undertaking, and it may keep on getting more challenging. In an era when the environment is both a societal and political priority, any transformations of the ATM systems should be long-term. As the number of planes in the air increases, so does the work of managing them all safely. Digitalization and automation can help by replacing human operators with computerized systems that can handle more tasks at once and accurately.

While a lot has been done to improve current methods for air traffic management systems, there’s still room for improvement. The FAA is currently working with other countries to develop a way to automate more aspects of air traffic control. The act can allow operators to focus on other advanced-level tasks. It’s wise that all stakeholders continue to work together on this issue for the benefit of everyone. The future may bring more challenges to the management of our air traffic, and we must strive to find solutions, promptly.