ASU researchers create new AI technology for air traffic controllers

Researchers at Arizona State University are looking into how to use artificial intelligence in air traffic control to prevent plane crashes.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 3:57 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Being an air traffic controller is a stressful job. Keeping track of countless moving variables all while at the mercy of weather, scheduling, and occasionally, the inevitable delay.

For years, air traffic controllers have relied on the National Airspace System (NAS) to keep an eye on the skies, but that might change. ASU mechanical and aerospace engineer professor Yongming Lui is one of the many researchers who developed new software that uses artificial intelligence for air traffic control.

“AI has been boosting everywhere, so we thought that’s about the right time to use AI mission learning to help us better understand air traffic safety to automate the process ... make sure the system becomes even safer,” Liu said.

Data from the National Transportation Safety Board shows that up to 80% of all aviation accidents can be attributed to human error. Lui believes this AI software can help minimize these kinds of accidents.

“We developed this system trying to see the happening even 60 seconds before it actually happens,” Lui said. Once the aircraft is 200 miles from the destination, the software can start planning the landing time to arrive safer and faster. “AI can help see the trending, see where they land, then issue a warning to the pilot and the air traffic control to abort the landing,” he said.

The project took about seven years to complete, but because of FAA regulations, it may take some time to be adopted. Researchers anticipate this AI system will be used within the next decade. ASU was among five university research teams that were funded by NASA for this idea to improve aviation. The project received nearly $10 million in funding.

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