Using language technology to increase efficiency and safety in atc communication

Margret Dora Ragnarsdottir*, Ebba Þóra Hvannberg, Helga Waage

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Voice communication is a volatile part of Air Traffic Control (ATC) and thus the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) puts great emphasis on improving communication in ATC. Research has shown that miscommunication happens on average once every hour per radio frequency where there is frequent communication, such as in Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON). This paper proposes that a Language Technology System (LTS) can make communication between controller and pilot more reliable and efficient, thus improving safety in aviation. An LTS can for example detect read back errors. It can also directly feed data from the voice recognizer into a Flight Data Processing System or interact with it otherwise as we show. By interviewing air traffic controllers and studying the literature, we identified these and several other examples of use of language technology in ATC. In this paper, we explore one of the identified examples, a system that takes over the communication between controller and pilot in oceanic ATC. This system is not meant to control the airspace autonomously, but only relay information. Latest advances in language technology have enabled the development of such a system. The functionality of the proposed LTS is described using scenarios and sequence diagrams. A demonstration LTS using Hex Technology was implemented. A usability test was administered to seven controllers. Their attitude towards the agent was positive and indicates that there is reason for further research. The performance and error logs of the LTS were analyzed and give guidance on further development of a fully functioning LTS for ATC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-602
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Aerospace Computing, Information and Communication
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


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