Posted on January 24, 2019 by staff

AI to solve delays at Heathrow airport


Artificial Intelligence is being trialled at Heathrow airport to speed up delays caused by bad weather.

The airport will use 20 ultra-high-definition cameras connected to an AI system which will tell air traffic controllers when planes have cleared the runway.

The AI trial is part of a £2.5 million investment by NATS (National Air Traffic Services) in a digital tower laboratory located inside Heathrow’s tower.

As the UK’s highest control tower, it is most susceptible to delays caused by low cloud.

“It is man and machine working in perfect harmony,” said NATS chief solution officer Andy Taylor.

He believes that the tower has reached “the extent of human performance” and will need the new AI tech in order to continue improvement of efficiency and safety.

“Right now we’re focusing on when the control tower is in low cloud, where I’m confident we can make a very positive difference.

“But I am convinced that this technology can totally revolutionise how air traffic is managed at airports around the world.”

The trial will study the movements of more than 50,000 inbound flights in the coming weeks, and the system could be brought into full use later this year.

Kathryn Leahy, Heathrow’s director of operations, said the technology is a welcome improvement.

“We’re delighted to be hosting this technology – we need to be even more resilient. We normally have 10-12 days a year here when the tower is in cloud and we are forced to increase the spacing. In the summer peak, it could make or break a busy day.

“If the technology works we may not have to build a second tower to see the third runway. We will be really testing the capability.”