26.8.2023 – 14:07z

BeyondATC Details Exciting Development Update Regarding AI Traffic

BeyondATC, a realistic and modern ATC experience for Microsoft Flight Simulator, took to their Discord server yesterday to detail a dev update regarding their very promising product. Lots of exciting news, and some disappointing as well, were shared by the team at BATC so let’s get right into it.

The Exciting News

The team at BeyondATC shared two very exciting pieces of news with us: BATC will now inject and control traffic using its own proprietary injector, and the lead developer of the fantastic AI traffic mod FS Live Traffic Liveries (FSLTL) has joined the team. Developing a proprietary injector they say was a necessary step to provide a seamless ATC experience. This is also the primary reason the creator of FSLTL will be joining their team to help implement this technology and provide much-needed knowledge and experience.

What does this all mean for us?

First and foremost, FSLTL will remain its own independent project from BeyondATC and will continue to be worked on by the lead developer and its exceptional FSLTL team. FSLTL will itself not be integrated into BATC but rather the knowledge and expertise of its creation will be used to aid in the development of BATC’s own custom injector.

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Having their own custom injector means BeyondATC will be able to directly control all aspects of flight, from taxi to takeoff, to cruise, descent, and approach. This will allow for proper sequencing between all aircraft in an airspace for a much more realistic flying experience. Of course, this also means that BATC will no longer work with any other third-party traffic injector.

The team does not know yet which aircraft data provider will be the data source of the injector as they would like to find a live service such as FlightRadar24. These services do have special licensing requirements that need to be met but research on this aspect continues.

Moreover, BeyondATC will not include airplane models but rather use whichever airplane models you already have installed. This means that you can use FSLTL’s models, AIG Traffic models, FSTraffic, or any other source you wish. The team feels this is the best way to ensure you can continue to use your favorite models no matter which you prefer.

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Implementation and Performance Implications of BeyondATC

Most traffic injectors use one of three primary methods of injecting traffic into the simulator. Developers program the injector to generate the planes and hand it to MSFS to control. When this happens, in-sim performance hugely suffers. To mitigate this, injectors generate traffic and inject directly into the simulator which means the injector controls the airplane position, bank angle, flaps, gear, etc., not MSFS.

Despite this being the most optimal way to inject AI traffic, this method requires you to manage all calculations yourself for every single airplane. Calculations such as sequencing, parking, taxiing, when to lower the gear, the flaps, if it needs certain lights on, or when to go around. Making these precise calculations requires a higher-level algorithm that takes all factors into consideration and understands what exactly is the aircraft doing accurately to the second and what the airplane’s ultimate goal is.

BATC already has this system available for human players therefore the application is well-suited for these tasks. The team states that they can use the direct traffic injection method that minimizes FPS loss instead of handing it over to MSFS control. Because of this, BATC’s custom injector could be the most FPS-friendly AI traffic injector available for the platform. Their very early testing indicates frame rates of up to 50FPS which is a nearly ~4 FPS drop.

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So what’s the disappointing news?

This is a large undertaking for all developers as a large amount of scope has been added to an already large project. Even with the addition of a new team member, the program will simply take longer to build. As a result, the team may not be able to reach their release goal of 2023 and the release date will most likely spill over into 2024. As sad as this may be, the team states that this is in the best interest as this new piece of functionality will truly help BeyondATC to become the one-stop shop for all ATC needs.

This is a big change in the system’s core architecture and a ton of code needs to be written to realize the team’s ambition and support the new functionality. This sets the team back a little bit behind where they were and is the reason why new videos and content have gone unreleased. Once the state of things is back to where they were we can expect new showcase videos and information in due course.

These are very early days of this vision and the team is yet to see if they can actually pull this very ambitious goal off. That said, the team does believe they can but nothing is guaranteed and patience is required as the team works through adding this huge functionality to an already massive program. They will of course keep us updated to let us know how it’s going.

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