Airport technology to cut flight delays

New technology is set to trim air passenger delays and save the UK air transport network more than £10m in the next three years, a transport organisation has announced.

The programme, Departure Planning Information (DPI), is being introduced at seven further airports across the UK after previously being in place only at Gatwick and Heathrow. It is being rolled out by the Transport Systems Catapult in partnership with air traffic services provider NATS.

The technology enables airports to send out real-time information about the departure of a plane to European air traffic control centres, improving the flow of air traffic on the continent.

"When you consider that this roll-out covers over 30 per cent of all commercial air transport flights taking off in the UK every day, then you start to realise the scale of improvement that we're talking about,” said Steve Yianni, chief executive of Transport Systems Catapult, in a statement.

Apart from improving passenger delays and the airspace efficiency, DPI could lead to a reduction in fuel consumption, noise pollution and carbon emissions.

Following a review of the programme and its impact on the UK airport networks, it was estimated that “at least £10m” worth of savings could be achieved with the new technology.  

"If the offline test results are replicated for real once the systems go live in the coming months, then we can expect to see less delays for passengers, both on the ground and in the air, as well as reduced fuel costs for the airlines and less harm to the environment."

The airports that will benefit from DPI are London City, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Luton, and according to Yianni expansion plans to integrate other airports in the scheme are expected.

"So far, only a small proportion of airports in mainland Europe are using this technology, and they tend to be among the continent's biggest hubs. By extending DPI capability in the UK from major international hubs to regional level airports, the Transport Systems Catapult is helping to put the UK at the forefront of European air space efficiency," Yianni said.

"The DPI project is a key deliverable for the UK’s Future Airspace Strategy and with the Catapult’s support we have been able to update NATS control tower systems to provide this more accurate information to our controllers and the European Air Transport Network," said Andy Shand, NATS general manager of customer affairs. "With DPI, our controllers will have a more accurate prediction of take-off times, and this in turn will allow our airport and airline customers to better plan their operations, while NATS will be able to offer more fuel-efficient routes.”

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