Future NextGen Air Traffic Control Discussed – Computer Hardware Needed

The innovative ideas, concepts, and inventions derived from the NextGen Project (Next Generation of Aviation) have been quite forward thinking. The FAA, NASA, Academia, and aviation experts from industry have all been involved. But I would like to ask a very serious question about all this, namely, how can aviation move forward while the bureaucracy has so much regulation on the sector? Not long ago I was discussing this with a think tanker, Troy is his name, and I explained my angst and explained how innovation was being stifled by FAA regulations.

Future NextGen Air Traffic Control Discussed - Computer Hardware Needed

Troy indicated that; “Unfortunately you are right, there are too much regulations and the whole system really needs an overhaul. We will probably not see this in our lifetimes.” Well, I am not sure I’d go there, as I plan on living forever (ha ha ha), however, I just don’t put much faith in the government to implement the system, over all there is too much corruption, too many lobbyists, too much nonsense, and too many regulations in every aspect of making it happen, all of which adds costs and time to implement, meaning it may NEVER happen.

Well, regarding new Air Traffic Control (ATC) systems, it is my personal opinion that they ought to be holographic representations – that would be good, but Troy reminds me that could take up too much space. Indeed, it might but perhaps the controller might merely flip a switch to put up a separate holograms and area being viewed very quickly.

Troy believes that this “would be feasible, unless you had more than one person wanting to use the same amount of physical space to view different things, hence why I am more a fan of the glasses/VR based display system.” Okay, this is a real problem right, although DARPA has some really cool spectral imagery used for BattleSpace viewing view holograms, and you can find a very nice video of this online at YouTube and you will not that in the video it does not look like it takes up a lot of space. Troy also notes however that;

It did not take up much space, but at the same time it did not show much when you get to looking at a system that must show a whole city. You would want the whole city to be viewable to be able to get a good idea of what is going on as a whole. If you were to put a city even the size of Reno on something the same size, and tried to do a overall view, everything would be to tiny to get any real information.

True enough, but now let us consider that currently air traffic controllers look at very large screens and the aircraft represent a super tiny dot, but show up as very large, miss-scaled. This miss-scaling of size could lead to over exaggerated urgency or a need for increased separation which is not necessary. And Troy counters this issue with the reality that;

It is a factor, however ATC are trained from the get go. On the scale of an airport, using properly trained people for management, then odd scaling probably wouldn’t be much of an issue, however if we then take the same system and expand it to handle stuff such as city traffic control, going to be a different ballgame due to the amount of incoming information.

Troy also points out that a large holographic display or many of them ready to burst onto the scene at a moment’s notice – that this takes up a lot of processing bandwidth, and speed and simplicity is also quite important. Yes, I agree with that, but if we are talking “open sky” that’s actually void of data, and the aircraft would be actually bigger than scale so you could see them or bright lights to scale, thus, you could tell if there is really any sort of need for warning because you can see the actual separation.

Tory also concurs, but suggests that there are other uses too, and what about ground control at the airport itself? And thus, Troy offers up this comment; “Well, in the case of ATC systems, that’s true, however I am thinking of other potential uses as well, where more information will need to be shown. Build the system with these uses in mind, and you are then building in future proofing for ATC use.

Hmm, Troy makes some decent points here, as if you solved the data streaming issues and the excessive bandwidth, you’d never have a problem with the ATC use, hmm? Yes, I agree, it would be bullet proof, even capable of keeping track of swarms in case you needed too (I am thinking military applications here).

Yes, it appears that our Think Tank has lots of bugs to work out on this, and yet, why implement a NextGen ATC system, if we are going to leap-frog those technologies within a year or two. Besides Congress cannot seem to find the money now anyway, but if you have any ideas or comments on this topic shoot me an email, let’s talk.