SmartSky took to Reddit to reveal their AI-Based air traffic control System. It is their debut project into the market and are completely dedicated to providing a realistic AI-based ATC system for VFR (visual flight rules) general aviation flights around the US.
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SmartSky AI ATC is an addon that utilises GPT-4 to give an ultra-realistic ATC experience. The addon caters to the people who prefer to fly general aviation VFR flights. SmartSky has released a demo video showcasing the same on their website.
In aviation, visual flight rules (VFR) are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. VFR flights tend to have a lot going on and require extra care by the pilot and the ATC, thus forming unique procedures and instructions for each flight. Artificial Intelligence helps SmartSky in making those decisions, thus enhancing the experience for GA pilots by making it more personalised and life-like.
Features of SmartSky
SmartSky is highly focused on making their addon as realistic and as true to life as possible. Keeping this in mind, they have a “No menus. No buttons.” approach, keeping the addon free from any menus or buttons. They are yet to unveil more about how it works, but you can just dial up ground and call for taxi, nothing is scripted or pre-determined.
The use of GPT-4 allows the addon to make unique and precise procedures for individual flights, giving the addon life and a human touch. Since the addon is not dependant on humans for making decisions, it can be online 24×7 and provide fully staffed ATC services for all airports. AI also makes hundreds of voices available, all trained with the cadence and speaking style of a real ATC.
The addon consists of enhanced audio effects, it simulates voice effects like Static, squelch-tails, ground-loop interference, and a sense of “distance”. The addon uses real-world procedures like Flight followings, traffic advisories, real-world ATIS, controller handoffs, VFR transition routes, CRAFT-based clearances, Class-Bravo and Charlie Procedures, and more.
Limitations of the Addon
The addon is currently entirely focused on general aviation VFR flights. SmartSky doesn’t seem to be interested in creating an addon for commercial IFR flights but they hope to develop the addon for general aviation IFR flights in the next year. The network also only covers the United States. All class Bravo, Charlie, and Delta airports are supported, including all positions (Clearance, Ground, Tower, Approach, Departure, Center, Unicom, etc.)
The addon needs a certain level of understanding about Air Traffic Services for one to use it which is why the addon has a lot of room for error on the pilot’s part. The “No menus. No buttons.” approach adds a lot to the realism but at the same time, it causes a problem for the people who are new and inexperienced. SmartSky plans to add “lessons” to the experience, so you’d hear an instructor in your ear helping you through the comms, but this feature won’t be available till next year. General Aviation IFR procedures are also planned for a later date following the initial release.
The addon is nearly ready with a few small bugs left to be ironed out before the planned release of Q4 2023. SmartSky mentioned in their Reddit post that they are currently in the closed beta testing period. The price of the addon is still to be decided. Read more about a similar addon here.