Association Technique Maritime et Aéronautique

Numéro : 2529 - Year : 2008

Future air transport system – how far toward automation?



International Autonomous Surface Symposium (ASSS 2008)

How far can we move toward the automation of the air transport system (ATS) to keep pace with the evolution of the traffic?

This question is not an easy one. Many answers can be given. They are very dependent on the consulted people. Air traffic controllers will have their own view, based on their current work, knowledge and career perspective; the same applies for pilots.

Airlines and industry will build plans according to their understanding of the economical constraints and of the technical state of the art. Their choice will be oriented toward business developments.

Dealing with public opinion is far more complicated. This opinion is strongly dependant of the knowledge the public has about the ATS automation, taking into account that this knowledge is built from the information that can be provided on this type of concept, and that this type of concept is not fully defined yet.

And last but not least, any long term forecast of the air traffic heavily depends on environmental concerns such as pollution and energy availability, topics that are currently highly controversial.

Instead of being stuck by this hen and egg problem, the approach that has been taken in the IFATS project is a purely technical one: the air transport concept that has been defined is a “technically possible” extremely automated system and not necessarily a “likely to happen” system. Then, an assessment of the potential of such a system has been made on the technical and social points of view. This assessment notably involves the interrogation of a panel of young adults.

This paper is written in English

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