U.K.’s Heathrow Airport to pilot made-in-Ottawa artificial intelligence


Ottawa’s Searidge Technologies will set its software to use at Heathrow Airport in hopes of improving runway visibility for traffic controllers at one of the world’s busiest travel hubs.

The local artificial intelligence software developer is partnering with NATS, a British firm and 50-per-cent stakeholder in Searidge following a 2017 deal.

The height of Heathrow’s tarmac tower – at 87 metres, it’s the tallest in the U.K. – means air traffic controllers are sometimes shrouded by low cloud cover, unable to see planes on the ground and forced to rely on radar to determine whether a plane has left the runway. That can start a chain reaction of delays for planes trying to land and take off from the busy London terminal.

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In a new pilot project, Searidge’s video software will interpret images from ultra high-definition cameras placed around Heathrow’s airfield to communicate runway conditions to traffic controllers who may not have visibility from their tower. Findings from this trial will be presented to the Civil Aviation Authority and successful results could see the project put into operation later this year.

The project is part of a larger £2.5 million (C$4.4 million) deal between NATS and Heathrow to test new technology as part of a “digital tower laboratory.” Searidge is also working with NATS to purportedly create the world’s first “smart tower” prototype at Singapore’s Changi Airport


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