ATC on an iPad: there's an app for that

What would an air traffic control system look like if it was migrated to an iPad?

This is one of the interesting concepts that Thales has been demonstrating to the ATM industry lately, most notably at the recent World ATM Congress in Madrid.

Thales has put a tower automation system onto an iPad, which would allow a tower controller to move around the tower cab and take their displays with them. It would be primarily “read-only,” but controllers could use it for some tasks such as flight clearances.

Such a system would be useful if a controller wanted to show a particular situation to a colleague, and could also be used by technicians or other users at an airport that would benefit from seeing the current traffic situation.

The iPad (or other tablet) cycles through displays such as electronic flight strips, a surface surveillance traffic display, and even a live video feed with digital data tags superimposed. It could effectively function like a pilot’s heads-up display.

At the moment it is just a concept that Thales is demonstrating, to get market feedback. However, it seems likely that tablet applications are likely to play a larger role in ATM in the future, as they have in other areas of the aviation industry such as aircraft maintenance.

The pictures below (from the Madrid event) show the concept in action. The first pic shows a tablet with an airport surface surveillance display, with a video feed on another screen in the background. The second picture shows an electronic flight strips display, again with a video feed on the screen behind. (Photos by Aviation Week)

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