Weekly Review #243 - AI Assistants: Enhancing Controllers, Not Replacing Them

Picture of Vincent Lambercy
Posted by Vincent Lambercy

If you think that AI in ATC means replacing controllers with AI, think again. This is the main takeaway from the Eurocontrol FlyAI conference that I attended at the end of April. Read more about FlyAI in my blog article.

But AI is coming, and it will play an increasing role in Air Traffic Management even if it doesn’t fully replace the original, version 1.0 human being. For example, a lot of work is going into AI assistants, speech recognition, NOTAM interpretation, and more. My colleague Julija wrote about CHarlie, an AI ATC assistant, and we will be covering this topic in more detail in our blog in the future.


Earlier this week, I saw a demo of a research project that could detect, with great precision and reliability, when an aircraft had vacated the runway at Heathrow Airport. It was called Aimee, so perhaps cute anthropomorphic names are the key to success with AI projects.


Aimee made her appearance during a visit to the tower at Heathrow and the NATS digital airport laboratory. More on that visit soon. For now, here is this week’s round-up of ATM news.



ANSP news

  • BULATSA hosted the 10th Operational Safety Group (SAFOPS) meeting - BULATSA- BULATSA hosted the 10th meeting of SAFOPS, which is directly linked to the EUROCONTROL Safety Team (ST) and supports the joint decision-making processes for the implementation of operational safety improvements at the Safety Team level. The meeting was attended by over 70 safety managers, investigators and experts of ANSPs, the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM), Aerodrome Operators, Aircraft Operators, Aircraft Manufacturers, Professional Associations and others.
  • NAV CANADA ADS-B mandate comes into effect in Canadian Domestic Class B Airspace- NAV CANADA first began to leverage this revolutionary satellite-based technology in Canadian Class A domestic airspace in 2019, following which Canada implemented an ADS-B mandate in this airspace in August 2023.
  • NAV CANADA launches new Aviation Meteorology Reference- In response to the dynamic challenges posed by weather in the aviation industry, NAV CANADA, in collaboration with experts from across the aviation industry, developed the new reference as an educational tool that will complement existing weather training and course curriculums in support of enhanced situational awareness and safety during any planned flight. A significant number of users, from flight schools to airport authorities and commercial airlines, have already planned to build the Aviation Meteorology Reference into their training.
  • NAV Portugal advances with Airspace restructuring of Lisbon Terminal Area- NAV Portugal launches the Point Merge System next dawn, a new sequencing model for arrivals at Lisbon Terminal Area, bringing greater flexibility and predictability in traffic management throughout the region. Besides the sequencing system, the changes implemented next dawn also entail a comprehensive redesign of aircraft entry and exit routes from Lisbon's airspace. This signifies the most extensive restructuring ever of Lisbon's airspace.
  • Twenty second Meetings of the DANUBE FAB Governing Bodies- The governing bodies of DANUBE FAB met in Sofia for their 22nd meeting. This meeting was held in the context of the constantly evolving aviation industry, which is facing increasing demands in the region. The attendees shared a commitment to making the skies safer, more efficient, and greener.
  • NAV CANADA inaugurates construction of the new Victoria Airport Control Tower- NAV CANADA and the Victoria Airport Authority, today held a groundbreaking event for the construction of the new Victoria Airport Control Tower. Designed in collaboration with the Victoria Airport Authority, NAV CANADA’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified Tower will be powered by green power from BC Hydro to operate with zero GHG emissions, aside from its emergency power generator.
  • DFS Aviation Services launches first cloud-based air traffic control system in Memmingen - The innovative air traffic control system, the first of its kind, operates entirely in the public cloud and represents a technological paradigm shift in the air traffic control industry. It utilises state-of-the-art technologies and has already proven its worth as an enhanced information tool at smaller airports.

Airport news

  • New Lisbon airport location announced - British Aviation Group- The Portugese Government has chosen Alcochete (Setubal district) for the location of Lisbon's new international airport, following the recommendation of the Independent Technical Commission created by agreement between the PSD and the previous PS Government.
  • Townsville Airport’s Master Plan Approved by Federal Government- The 2023 Townsville Airport Master Plan has been given the green light by the Federal Government for the expansion of the airport terminal and development of the surrounding precinct. The plan outlines Townsville Airport’s strategic vision and growth objectives over the next twenty years, with a more detailed focus on the initial eight years.

Market news

  • FREQUENTIS UK appoints new Managing Director- Current UK Managing Director Andy Madge will retire, effective 1 July 2024, handing over responsibility for the UK and Ireland subsidiary to Mike Garrod. Mike Garrod, with extensive experience in the aerospace and defence sectors, joined Frequentis UK on 13 May to begin a phased handover to close Andy’s seven successful years as Managing Director of the UK and Ireland subsidiary.

Research and innovation

Reports and data

  • Zurich Airport records 7% increase in passenger traffic in April 2024- Air traffic movements also saw a 7% year-on-year increase, totalling 21,967 take-offs or landings. However, compared to 2019 levels, movements were at 94%. The average passenger per movement decreased slightly to 134, while the average seat load factor remained strong at 80%.


  • Malaga airport “to trial Lilium flights to Marbella and Granada, starting in 2025” - Unmanned airspace- The SurinEnglish news website reports that Malaga airport will start test flights with Lilium eVTOLs in 2025. Air navigation service provider ENAIRE and Crida, its R+D subsidiary have been looking for an airport to test eVTOL operations and Malaga was one of the first volunteers, according to the news site.
  • SESAR Joint Undertaking | Gaming the future integration of drones- On 14 May, partners in the SESAR ENSURE project gathered for some paper gaming on solutions to integrate drone traffic safely and securely into the airspace, ahead of the projects first technical validations later this year. The ENSURE project aims to refine and complete the definition of a common interface and services for U-space and ATM. The project will develop a standardised data model, architecture and an operational methodology. It will also develop a dynamic airspace configuration service to help air traffic management stakeholders in charge of airspace reconfigurations to maintain traffic segregation and to avoid proximity between manned and unmanned aircraft within the designated U-space airspace.
  • CAD conducts second phase of trial flight inspection by small unmanned aircraft to enhance efficiency- The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) conducted the second phase of a trial flight inspection by small unmanned aircraft. The flight inspections for Hong Kong International Airport have been conducted with results certified by the internationally recognised flight inspection aircraft and professional crew from the Flight Inspection Center of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.