Dots in the Dubai Sky: Thousands Travel to Air Show Guided by 'Invisible' Technology

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The control tower at Al Maktoum International Airport watches over planes during the 2013 Dubai Air Show. Raytheon's Auto Trac III manages all of the air traffic into the Dubai area.

An invisible presence helped guide thousands of people from around the globe to the Dubai Air Show this year. Travelers likely didn't give it a second thought, but Raytheon's Auto Trac III air traffic management system, recently installed in the United Arab Emirates, played a vital role in getting passengers safely to the ground.

The system gives air traffic controllers powerful new tools and even allows them to predict conflicts 99 minutes ahead of time using information transmitted by the aircraft themselves.

"They can actually see into the future and solve problems before they happen," said Bob Meyer, Raytheon's director of air traffic systems.

AutoTrac III is in continuous operation at Dubai International, the world's fourth-busiest airfield. It also helps guide planes at Al Maktoum International, Sharjah International, Minhad Air

Force Base and Ras Al Khaimah International.

The next-generation system is fundamental to the future of air traffic control. Such systems will allow planes to fly more direct routes across the globe and take more fuel-efficient approaches to airports.

If an arriving aircraft has to circle in order to accommodate a large amount of traffic in the arrival flight pattern, it results in additional cost to the airline, Meyer said.

"Managing the traffic pattern safely, with an eye on efficiency, results in satisfied passengers and a more profitable flight for the airline itself," he said.

The advances come as experts predict a rise in air traffic, especially in the Middle East.

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Raytheon flags fly near a ground control tower at Al Maktoum International Airport, site of the 2013 Dubai Air Show.

"Safety must remain the most essential concern in air traffic management,"said Jim McCoy, Raytheon's vice president of air traffic management. "Maintaining the highest safety standards, while bringing predictive capabilities that increase efficiency, will create a positive situation for everyone."

Raytheon has a long history of air traffic management dating back to the magnetrons, or radio transmitters, that it produced for early radar systems during World War II.

Its systems manage 60 percent of the world's airspace, and it is the leading provider of systems designed to improve the accuracy of satellite-based navigation.

Published On: 11/22/2013
Last Updated: 12/06/2017