Editor’s Note: This article was penned by Sunil Kumar Jha, a writer with Global Market insights. Jha spoke to the tumultuous year the aviation industry faced in 2020, specifically around challenges with air traffic management, and the technologies that are propelling the air traffic management market forward into a more promising year for the industry. Jha elaborates on the roles of 5G adoption, AI, and ADS-C flight tracking capabilities. You can read his full insights below.
Despite the challenges brought forth in the aviation community in 2020, the year 2021 promises to be a compelling year as mega-trends fostering technology adoption have come to the fore. Right from potential 5G technology adoption to artificial intelligence (AI), novel technologies have entered into the aviation industry.
Bringing vision to life is the ubiquity of sensors embedded into cheaper hardware, maturing AI, convergence of 5G and the IoT in navigation, runway throughput capabilities, routing tools, and airport safety alerts. In terms of revenue, the air traffic management market is forecasted to exceed USD 10 billion by 2027 worldwide. Here are explanations of how those technologies are being applied to make that progress a reality:
5G aptly suited to ATM
Airbus had forecast the number of commercial aircraft in operation to surge two-fold to 48,000 planes globally by 2038. Developments and urbanization could mean the global middle-class population-based air passengers could rise to six billion over the same timeframe.
There is a new kind of playing field in the shape of 5G that is aptly suited to seamlessly manage complex air traffic through:
- Near real-time analytics during flight with edge computing
- Low latency, boosting aircraft control
- Approximately one million connected devices per square kilometer
- Robust and rapid data transfer, leveraging live transmission of high volumes of data
New antennas and modems are being designed to leverage in-flight connectivity 5G air-to-ground (ATG) networks in the next few years. Several aircraft maintenance providers have already forayed into 5G. For instance, Lufthansa Technik is allegedly using a 5G wireless network to leverage collaborative virtual engine inspections between customers in other locations and engineers at its shop in Hamburg. Meanwhile, Nokia is said to be using the same technology to augment the use of 5G at Brussels Airport.
ADS-B and ADS-C streamlining surveillance technologies
The industry is grappling to emerge victorious against all odds—from the pandemic to the rise of low-cost airlines, volatile fuel prices, and bankruptcies. The use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) to track airplanes on the ground and in-flight more reliably and accurately has led airline companies to procure new equipage.
ADS-B has brought a seismic shift in air traffic control systems, emphasizing Single European Sky Air Traffic Management (ATM) Research Program (SESAR) or the Next Generation Air Transportation System in the U.S.
ADS-B has gained traction as a low-cost replacement for traditional radar, leveraging ATC to control and monitor airplanes over a larger area of the earth’s surface and with enhanced precision. For instance, following the installation of low-cost ADS-B receiving stations, large expanses of Hudson Bay in Canada and large expanses of Australia were visible on ATC.
New technology trends have focused on boosting the identification of targets and reliable positioning information, mainly attributed to advanced data fusion algorithms and high-performance sensors. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) technology has received a thumbs-up from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help achieve reduced distances between aircraft in the U.S. Oceanic Airspace by 2022.
ADS-C has become a catalyst in bolstering oceanic aviation safety as it continues to remain at the helm of the sophisticated and invaluable technology required for air traffic control (ATC) communications in the oceans. With enhanced situational awareness through integrated traffic picture and aircraft-derived data, ATM technology adoption is here to stay.
AI innovations provide cutting-edge solutions in ATC
Next-gen technology adoption has become indispensable in underpinning crowded and complex airspace. AI and machine learning have brought a paradigm shift in air traffic management, supporting situational awareness and decision making.
AI is already being used at Heathrow International Airport as a way of replacing views of the air traffic controller when the tower’s vision is lost owing to inclement weather with the help of ultra-HD cameras. The tower is said to help air traffic controllers to get a clear view of the airport and aid in flight planning, safety assessment, and enhanced decision making.
4K digital tower labs are being developed, while stakeholders are focusing on ATC planning and air traffic flow management. They will continue to inject funds into AI to help establish surveillance technology for drones functioning commercially beyond the visual line of sight.
Assessing adoption of the NextGen and TBO technologies
The FAA contemplates deploying cutting-edge technologies, policies, and procedures through 2030 and beyond. And in doing so, the FAA is relentlessly investing in NextGen. The technology is expected to help in predictive analysis by helping the U.S. air travel system recuperate more quickly from inclement weather.
The U.S. is adopting Trajectory Based Operations (TBO)—boosting predictability, throughput, flexibility, and efficiency. The technology will remain instrumental in reducing capacity-to-demand imbalances in the National Airspace System (NAS), providing equipment to air traffic controllers to help rev up aircraft movement between origin-destination airports.
Stakeholders expect TBO to streamline performance-based navigation and time-based management by improving the feasibility of schedules and managing trajectories and traffic flows. AI technology adoption towards satellite navigation will add a value proposition to air traffic flow management. AI can be used to isolate and spot instances of ionosphere error to boost the prediction and potential effect of the phenomena.
AI, ADS-C, and 5G are ushering growth in the technology landscape with far-reaching influences. Stakeholders are expected to exploit these novel technologies to optimize aircraft trajectories, address airspace capacity shortages, boost decision-makers, air traffic controllers, and pilots. The technology adoption will help reduce human workload and bolster human capabilities as the air traffic management industry embarks on a digital transformation journey.