Air Traffic Management and the Future Challenges of Aviation Automation


As artificial intelligence, machinery, and general technologies continue to advance, automation is becoming ever more realized for a great number of applications and industries. From the automatic program recordings conducted by TVs to self-driving electric cars, automation can come in many forms and benefit society in a multitude of ways. Within the realm of aviation, automation has a grand potential for streamlining processes and operations, creating more flexibility for service providers and businesses alike. While aviation industry automation does have its various advantages, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind as such technology becomes increasingly present. With air traffic management in particular, automation can revolutionize how we manage aircraft throughout the skies, but there are some hurdles that will need to be addressed before such changes can come to fruition.

As is with all operations that rely on autonomous systems and machinery, safety is one of the first considerations made before fully implementing changes. In the current state of air traffic control, air traffic controllers are tasked with the management of all aircraft moving through the sky, ensuring that they are kept far apart from each other, can be directed around bad weather and adjust flight routes, and takeoff and land smoothly with little to no delays. With flight service stations, air traffic control towers, air traffic control centers, and other such facilities working together, a large amount of management is required to oversee air traffic and ensure aircraft safety.

While some who discuss the path of automation may equate autonomous automobiles to aviation industry automation, the two are very different in their concerns for safety. As of the present, over one million people face a fatal car accident every year, while the aviation industry has only had 257 commercial aircraft fatalities in the year of 2019. As a result, the safety requirements for aviation automation is held to a much greater degree, ensuring that such technology only increases the safety of procedures.

With the discussion of automated air traffic management and how safety will be implemented, we move on to our second major concern for implementation which is complexity. As discussed before, there are a grand number of procedures and tasks that must be handled for air traffic management, and many people are needed to ensure everything is conducted swiftly and efficiently. For the standard air traffic controller, about three years of training is required to realize one’s potential for the position. Unlike machines that primarily rely on their programming to carry out set tasks, humans have the capability to navigate ambiguous situations which can assist one in dealing with new issues, emergencies, and more. With a machine, on the other hand, safety and efficiency needs to be as good as possible and automated systems must be capable of adapting to new scenarios they encounter.

Another hurdle relating to complexity is how humans may adopt new systems and accept them. While a single airport can begin to make radical changes to their systems, if other airports don’t follow suit, optimal communication can be harder. As communication and collaboration is already a requirement for air traffic controllers, adopting automation will demand that all entities work together in order to coordinate changes. Beyond collaboration, the adopters of automation and those who benefit from them will have to accept their regular use within society. Even if a technology is proven to be just as good as a human or better, the acceptance of the passenger to put their safety in such technology will make or break the future of aviation automation. As a result, it is crucial that the industry carefully implements such technologies and nurtures a trust between computerized systems and the humans that will rely on them.

Despite automation seeming like a very new concept, many related technologies have already been introduced to the aviation industry and have been relied upon for a number of years. As one such example, autopilot is a form of aviation industry automation which has streamlined certain operations for the benefit of pilots. With the use of autopilot systems, an aircraft may be flown without perpetual hands-on governance of controls by the pilot. To achieve this, the pilot programs the system to follow a certain mode, and then signals will be relayed to the flight control system to carry out procedures. With autopilot, the streamlining of processes can be as simple as keeping a set altitude to directing flights.

With air traffic management in particular, automation has already been introduced in the form of automated solutions. With the information provided to air traffic controllers through various systems, controllers can have more accurate information provided to them much more quickly, and they can increase the quality of communication with pilots alongside visibility at airports. While seemingly simple, such flight tracking system automation has increased the communication, navigation, and oversight achievable by controllers.

As the present has taught us, industries must always remain very flexible and open to new avenues to continue thriving and growing in an ever-changing world. While technology and innovations come and go, automation has been playing an increasingly important role in society that hints that it is here to stay as we continuously improve procedures, safety, efficiency, and more. For human workers, small amounts of automation can make their lives easier as well, as high workloads and pressure can lead to increased mistakes. By alleviating some of the work to automated systems, humans can focus on what is most important to ensure optimal aircraft safety and conduct their assigned roles and duties.

As you begin researching and procuring parts and components for aircraft safety, flight tracking systems, and other aviation industry automation endeavors, Aviation Orbit is your one-stop-shop with our unrivaled inventory of parts. Whether you are in need of new, used, or obsolete items, we offer competitive pricing and lead-times on everything that we carry. To begin the purchasing process for items you are interested in, fill out and submit a Request for Quote form on our website. Once received, a member of our staff will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less to provide a personalized solution to your needs.


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