With technology continuously evolving, Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities are always in search of new trends that help with task performance to keep up with the demand for faster and better service. Here, we look at some trends, the challenges faced in this complex environment and some solutions that help better position the facility for the future.
Trends in Air Traffic Control (ATC) Facilities
One important trend is the use of more digital displays in ATC facilities. Previously, controllers relied on physical sightlines, radios, and a few displays to communicate with airlines and pilots. Today’s modern technology means more information is readily available at an increasing rate on much larger displays. As a result, ATC systems can display more information and controllers have more data to monitor and share than ever before.
Challenges Faced by Air Traffic Control Facilities
ATC facilities face various challenges with the adoption of modern technology. As an example, Control Towers were not previously designed to incorporate a large number of displays, never mind displays that are twice as large as previous ones. Now, the greater need for monitors with pertinent information has made the physical workspaces smaller, and very space-constrained. As a result, the space issue is often not addressed until many other physical restraints are already in place, thus limiting possible solutions.
Additionally, when multiple systems are displayed on a single display, the display must be large enough to permit readability for operational ATC positions. Yet, controllers must be able to quickly view and then find relevant information which is then used as needed. As new systems displaying data are merged into a single large display, the complexities for controllers are substantial, and adoption has been slow, even if the technology supports the transition.
Even when the merging of systems onto single large displays happens, space constraints become a real issue. The displays must be easily readable and large enough to accommodate multiple systems, but many Control Towers are not designed to have large displays integrated into the operational environment. This creates multiple challenges:
- Other equipment and displays may be blocked/obstructed
- There may not be enough physical space for all large displays and all other equipment and displays to be used effectively
- Taking space from the operator for technology creates a Human Factors conundrum
- Critical sightlines within and exterior to the Control Tower are impacted, and this can result in safety issues
- As technology continues to advance and digitalization spreads, this trend is likely to continue
Solutions for Air Traffic Control Operations Centers
In order to address these challenges, each control center will need an all-encompassing operational facility design. This will mean looking at the design from a higher level and taking various considerations into account. Everything including equipment, large displays, space constraints, sightlines, ergonomics, controller fatigue, emergency planning, and more will need to be covered during facility planning and renovations.
The use of advanced visualization tools becomes critical in the design of solutions for ATC facilities. Ensuring that all stakeholders have the earliest possible input results in the best solutions and smoothest transitions.
Overcoming these obstacles will mean each ATC facility has its own unique requirements assessed and its issues resolved. As more technology advances and drives the modernization of ATC operational environments, towers will need to adapt to continue to raise the industry to new technological heights.
Evans is Here To Help Overcome Challenges
To learn more from our Director of ATC & Airports, Dave Rivers, or to ask our team any questions, contact us at the button below. We have more than 30 years of experience delivering ATC Console solutions to the FAA and we are confident we can get your next project to the finish line.
Topics: Air Traffic Control Towers