Innovation in the air traffic control service

Global air traffic is booming. It is therefore crucial to maintain high safety standards. Thanks to support from Innosuisse, the Geneva-based SME Skysoft-ATM has developed a technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assist air traffic controllers. The company is aiming to roll out its software first in Switzerland, then internationally.

According to estimates, air traffic could double in the next 20 years. This prospect poses major challenges in terms of efficiency and safety in the air. In response, Skysoft-ATM, in collaboration with the Idiap Research Institute, has developed techniques based on machine learning to improve air traffic control. They enable better prediction of wind speed along aircraft trajectories and more accurate estimation of maximum and minimum aircraft climb rates.

Skysoft-ATM was founded in 2001. The company develops air traffic management solutions that are used in over 30 countries. Thanks to the support provided by Innosuisse, this SME aims to participate in the development of this industry. “We have integrated the latest artificial intelligence technologies into our solutions to improve the predictive algorithms of Swiss air traffic management. In concrete terms, this technology makes it possible to predict the future flight paths of all aircraft over Switzerland in order to manage air traffic flows in advance,” explains Didier Berling, R&D Director and founder of Skysoft-ATM.


Automation of certain tasks
Air traffic control plays an essential role in air safety, as well as ensuring the efficiency and fluidity of traffic. As the number of flights increases, air traffic controllers will have to manage a growing volume of traffic simultaneously.

“During the summer season, the cognitive burden on controllers is already reaching its limits. That’s why we’re moving towards automation. In the future, controllers will concentrate on special cases while being assisted with routine tasks by automated decision-support tools,” explains Benoit Maffioli, air traffic controller at Skyguide, Switzerland’s air navigation service provider, which guides civil and military flights in Europe’s busiest airspace.

Tests are currently being carried out in real-time simulations. A number of important stages then need to be completed before the software developed can be put to operational use. “Once the validation and certification processes have been completed, it is possible that the technology developed will become the first artificial intelligence tool to be actively used at Skyguide,” adds the air traffic controller: “This innovation could increase controllers’ cognitive abilities tenfold, enabling them to manage more aircraft while maintaining the same workload. Algorithms will predict trajectories more accurately, freeing them from a large amount of uncertainty and enabling them to be more efficient.”


An SME that innovates
Skysoft-ATM aims to promote Swiss technology abroad through innovation and thus contribute to the development of the air traffic management industry. “For a Swiss SME working in a niche market like ours, innovation is the only way to remain competitive in the long term,” says its director, Claude Levacher. “Thanks to Innosuisse, we have been able to work closely with Swiss research partners and gain access to cutting-edge technologies,” adds Didier Berling.

The future of the company depends to a large extent on the development and adoption of new technologies. “It’s too early to draw any conclusions about the effects of Innosuisse’s support for SkySoft-ATM. If we want to remain at the cutting edge of air traffic management technology, this kind of support is essential for an SME like ours,” adds the CEO.


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Last modification 20.06.2024

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Benoit Maffioli, air traffic controller at Skyguide, Didier Berling, R&D Director at Skysoft-ATM and Claude Levacher, CEO of Skysoft-ATM.