Ottawa’s Searidge to explore AI in air traffic control with UAE

Dubai airport
An Emirates A380 at the Dubai airport.

Ottawa’s Searidge Technologies is partnering with the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority to research and develop applications for artificial intelligence in air traffic control.

This isn’t the company’s first time using AI to develop solutions for the aviation sector, but it is its first such project with in-air applications.

Alex Sauriol, Searidge’s chief technology officer, says the company’s ongoing project with Singapore’s aviation authority is using AI to streamline airport activities on the ground. This new partnership will explore the use of similar technology to help aviation authorities manage air traffic and streamline alerts.

With the project in Singapore, Searidge developed data analysis tools that can be applied to its new partnership in the UAE. This is the first such collaboration in the region, according to a news release.

Sauriol says AI has enormous potential for the aviation sector, both on the ground and in the air.

“Every function can at least be made a little bit better with AI,” he says. For example, AI technology could help the air traffic controller predict aircraft patterns and determine when to alert their supervisor of a situation.

“What we would look to impact is the annual fuel bill and overall passenger experience,” says Sauriol, including reducing avoidable delays such as wait times for gates.

Searidge made a name for itself in the aviation sector with digital camera technology that allows air traffic controllers to manage ground traffic.

For the moment, the new partnership is concentrated on R&D, with more specific outcomes and broad timelines to be defined in November. Most of the research will be done by Searidge’s Ottawa team, and Sauriol anticipates around 12 new hires within the next year due to this venture.

Sauriol says each new partnership is a chance for Searidge to diversify their expertise. While Singapore allowed them to develop tools for use on the ground, the company’s partnership with the UAE will extend that expertise into the air. He says those areas of expertise could further diversify, such as specific research into reducing delays or optimizing training.

Searidge is owned by NAV Canada and UK-based NATS. It’s had a presence in the Middle East since at least 2008, when its technology was adopted by Abu Dhabi International Airport.