augmented reality

Andrey L. Gorbunov, PhD., MSTUCA | a.gorbunov(at)

The importance of the training systems for air traffic controllers (ATCTS) could be illustrated by the well-known fact: the biggest catastrophe in the aviation history with almost 600 victims happened not in the air but on the ground when two planes collided in the airport of the Tenerife island. Among the main factors that caused the tragedy was the non-efficiency of an air traffic controller.

The air traffic becomes more and more intensive and the number of emergency situations on flying fields increases correspondingly. Thus a problem of controller's readiness to act properly in the alert condition becomes the urgent issue.

However until recent time the development of effective ATCTS (for those working in an airport tower) encountered an insurmountable safety barrier since there is no way to train controllers on the flying fields of todayТs big airports without the risk of a crash. As a result nowadays ATCTS are realized as computer simulators. The best of them simulate 360 degree vision from the airport tower by means of computer graphics Ц as it is in the UND training center shown on the picture.

Such simulators have 3 serious drawbacks:

training is carried out on a virtual airport flying field, whereas effective training may take place only on a real field of a real airport;

ATCTS permanent placement in special rooms of training centers, which requires that controllers' work should to be discontinued during training

high costs of the simulators and training.

The progress of the augmented reality (AR) technology allows to avoid the mentioned drawbacks. This technology combines the real world and virtual objects created by a computer. AR is not new for aviation Ц helmet targeting systems of military aircrafts are good examples.

ATCTS based on the augmented reality could be briefly described as follows:


The air traffic controller is on his workplace in the traffic control tower observing the airport flying field.

There are moving virtual planes (or any other objects) side by side with real planes on the field. The virtual planes are driven by real pilots by means of special control devices. The virtual planes may safely take part in the training situations including dangerous ones. The traffic controller communicates with the virtual planes pilots in the usual way.

AR training tasks are focused on alert conditions. An example: the model for the collision of A380 and Comair in JFK airport on April 12, 2011.


The video of AR scene in the real airport ->
Novelty and advantages

FULLY REALISTIC ENVIRONMENT Ц any training situations can be safely created (planes, cars etc.) on and above the real flying field.

MOBILITY - quick ( < 0.5 h) deployment on any airport traffic tower.

COST Ц about ten times cheaper than the existing ATCTS

Implementation results

TRAINING INTENCIFICATION Ц training at the workplace in any airport.

TRAINING EFFECTIVENESS INCREASE Ц because of the training environment realism and decrease of the cost.

PRIORITY Ц at present there is no analogous ATCTS.

RU patents: 111703, 2011104173
© A. L. Gorbunov, 2011 | a.gorbunov(at)