Case Study: NATS app aims to cut UK airspace Infringements

Rob Borley
on 01 September 2014

Download the full case study (PDF)

App supports pilots in battle against controlled airspace infringements

NATS Holdings (formerly National Air Traffic Services) is the main air navigation service provider in the United Kingdom. It provides air traffic navigation services to aircraft flying through UK controlled airspace and at several UK and international airports.

UK airspace contains a network of corridors, or airways. These are usually ten miles wide and reach up to a height of 24,000 feet from a base of between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. They mainly link busy areas of airspace known as terminal control areas, which are normally above major airports.

All of these airways are designated “controlled airspace”. Aircraft fly in them under the supervision of air traffic controllers and pilots are required to file a flight plan for each journey, containing details such as destination, route, timing and height.

In total, NATS move over 6,000 flights every day through the busy skies around the world safely and efficiently.

The Opportunity

NATS have launched a series of initiatives aimed at reducing the rate of infringement into controlled airspace. According to NATS’ Terminal Control Safety Manager Jonathan Smith: “An infringement occurs every 11 hours in the UK and they’re bad news for everyone involved”.

NATS wanted to look into innovative ways to remind pilots of the simple things that can easily be forgotten before taking to the air, while increasing awareness of their own potential to infringe and the factors to be aware of.

The approach

NATS conducted research into the causes of airspace infringements. The results of 400 pilot questionnaires identified human factors, such as workload and fatigue, as major contributors.

With the assistance of industry experts, including GA pilots and instructors, these were then translated into a series of questions and prompts designed to reduce the impact and likelihood of a pilot infringing.

Working in collaboration with NATS, Dootrix scoped, designed and delivered an iOS application which would work on both the iPhone and the iPad.

The results

Dootrix developed a universal native iOS app for iPhone and iPad which takes pilots through a range of questions, highlighting the factors that could lead to them straying into controlled airspace.

Pilots are then given a score based on their answers and can share the results on social media. Questions cover a range of topics, from the weather conditions and need to brief passengers, to the importance of contacting NATS in the event of becoming lost.

The app sets out to reminds pilots of the simple things that can easily be forgotten before taking to the air, while increasing awareness of their own potential to infringe and the factors to be aware of.

“The Dootrix team guided us through our Agile development, enabling us to achieve a fantastic end product to challenging timescales. Dootrix are great partners to work with.”
– Kathryn McColl, Strategic Research Engineer at NATS, United Kingdom

The NATS Flight Prepare App is the latest in a series of initiatives from the air traffic control company aimed at reducing controlled airspace infringement rates. In January it launched the Infringement Prevention Award to recognise the clubs and flight schools that are doing fantastic work to reduce the number of infringements by their members.

Dootrix are a preferred supplier to NATS and have become a trusted partner in the area of mobile technology.

Download the full case study (PDF)


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