Air traffic control systems at Dubai airports to be upgraded with AI

Emirate's busy hubs are increasingly turning to technology to bolster efficiency

Artificial intelligence will be used to improve the efficiency of air traffic control operations at Dubai's airports. Photo: Saab
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Air traffic control systems at both of Dubai's airports are to be powered by artificial intelligence in an effort to boost efficiency.

The contract for the high-tech upgrade, called the Integrated Air Traffic Control Suite, was awarded to Swedish aerospace company Saab last year, with the technology now being delivered and installed at Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport — also known as Dubai World Central — as well as at Emirates Flight Academy and the Contingency Operations Centre.

The technology aims to make the challenging job of an air traffic controller easier by collating crucial radar and flight data in one place.

It is being rolled out to reduce air traffic controllers' workload and increase safety, with the aid of automated devices which support the sequencing of departures.

David Shomar, vice president of civil security for Saab's Middle East and North Africa operation, told The National on Tuesday that it would take about a year for the technology to come into use.

“Our system, which we're installing now, takes all the information that controllers have from all different places, for example radars and flight data that's coming in, and combines it into one controller working position,” he said, on the opening day of Airport Show 2023, being held at Dubai World Trade Centre until Thursday.

“Instead of having to look at different screens, the controller only has to look at one screen.”

Advanced AI is also being used to help prepare for potential incidents and manage traffic flow in terminals, an increasingly important tool for an emirate which welcomes millions of passengers each year.

Saab is also showcasing other air traffic solutions at the event, including its Total Airport Management technology.

“On the passenger side, we have a complete picture. We can tell where all the resources are on the terminal sides, from police, fire, ambulance to your controllers at the border control,” Mr Shomar said.

“If an incident happens, you can tell on the screen where it's happened and you can locate the closest resource and send them there.”

The technology also monitors the airside of the airport, which means if flights are delayed, it sends alerts that more airport staff, such as immigration and customs, are needed for that particular time.

There have been many technological advances over the years that have significantly improved flows at immigration.

They include biometric technology that uses facial and iris recognition to identify passengers so they do not have to wait in long queues.

There are also many self check-in counters in Emirates Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport.

The annual aviation trade show began with encouraging news for Dubai's resurgent travel sector, which is continuing to bounce back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubai International Airport reached 95.6 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels of passenger traffic in the first quarter of this year.

The airport handled 21.2 million passengers during the first three months, up 55.8 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2022, Dubai Airports said on Tuesday.

March was the busiest month in the first quarter with 7.3 million passengers, which is also the highest monthly traffic since January 2020 when 7.8 million passengers were recorded.

Updated: May 10, 2023, 3:00 AM