Transforming Southeast Asia’s Skies: AI and Prompt Engineering Take Flight

  • 07 May 2024
  • Text By: Ms Alicia Ong, Adjunct Faculty, and Dr. Jack Patel, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Asia

The air over Southeast Asia is buzzing with excitement and activity. In 2023, The Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP) of China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States of America (USA) entered an agreement for a Trajectory Based Operations Pathfinder Project (Waldron, 2023). With the aviation and aerospace industry continuing to grow and make its recovery in 2024, managing airspace congestion and ensuring smooth operations can become a complex challenge. But there is hope on the horizon, thanks to the innovative duo of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Prompt Engineering.

Artificial Intelligence (Photo: Pexels, Tara Winstead)

Firstly, let’s define Artificial Intelligence (AI) and then delve deeper into the potential of AI in galvanising Air Traffic Management. According to Manning (2020), Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term coined by emeritus Stanford University Professor John McCarthy in 1955 as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. In the present day, the focus of AI is on machines that can learn, at least somewhat like human beings do.  Imagine an orchestra conductor, not as a human, but as an AI algorithm. This virtual conductor analyses vast amounts of data from radar, weather, flight plans, and more, orchestrating a symphony of aircraft to chart the optimal flight path. AI considers a multitude of factors for optimisation such as distance, weather, and congestion, fuel consumption and flight times. Additionally, AI is able to predict congestion through the analysis of real-time data, anticipating bottlenecks and suggesting alternative routes to prevent delays (Kabaskhkin et al., 2023). The AI algorithm will also assist air traffic controllers by acting as a trusted advisor, as it provides real-time insights and recommendations, enabling faster and most importantly, safer decisions. Still, AI’s power doesn’t stop there, as it is able to synergise with technologies like Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and data link communications which helps to provide real-time aircraft tracking. Imagining ADS-B , which provides constant aircraft position updates, feeding AI with even more data for precise demand predictions and optimised routes. Therefore, data-linked communication can facilitate instant information exchange between aircraft and air traffic control, further enhancing safety and efficiency.

Secondly, let’s explore a discipline dedicated to the careful crafting of the queries and instructions entered into AI systems, Prompt Engineering. With real-time data and automation tools working hand-in-hand, prompt engineering will be able to manage air traffic efficiently. By automating flight planning, routing, and scheduling, prompt engineering allows quick responses to changes in traffic demand and optimises airspace capacity. This then translates to more flights, which allows airports the ability to accommodate more flights without congestion, which is especially critical for rapidly developing destinations. Delays would also be significantly reduced, as optimised routes and fewer diversions mean less waiting time for passengers. These would inevitably create an enhanced experience, better connectivity and smoother journeys for everyone.

Ms Alicia Ong's sharing with the students from Embry-Riddle Asia. Photo: Embry-Riddle Asia
Ms Alicia Ong's sharing with the students from Embry-Riddle Asia. Photo: Embry-Riddle Asia

in addition, the innovative duo of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Prompt Engineering may also benefit ground operations too as there are instances where Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) leverage AI to manage ground traffic based on real-time analysis. Cameras and sensors feed AI, enabling it to analyse traffic flow and identify potential issues. AI-powered systems can also adjust navigational taxiway and runway lights dynamically, re-route traffic, and provide real-time updates, boosting safety and efficiency when travelling.

While AI and Prompt Engineering paint a bright picture for Southeast Asia’s aviation landscape, navigating the path to success requires acknowledging both the potential benefits and the challenges that lie ahead. On the positive side, these technologies promise significant gains in efficiency. Imagine busier skies teeming with aircraft, yet each navigating with optimal efficiency, thanks to AI-powered route optimisation. This translates to more flights operating safely, leading to economic growth and increased connectivity within the region. Additionally, optimised flight paths and reduced unnecessary maneuvers result in lower fuel consumption, contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable aviation industry, a crucial goal for the environmentally conscious Southeast Asia. Furthermore, both airlines and passengers stand to benefit from cost savings due to reduced fuel usage and potentially shorter flight times.

An Air Traffic Management class at Embry-Riddle Asia. Photo: Embry-Riddle Asia

However, achieving these benefits is not without its hurdles. The foundation for this technological transformation lies in upgrading data processing and communication systems across the region. This necessitates significant investment in infrastructure to handle the increased volume and speed of information exchange. Collaboration is also key. Airlines, airports, and air traffic control agencies need to work hand-in-hand to ensure seamless integration and effective decision-making based on AI-driven recommendations. Finally, addressing privacy concerns and implementing robust cybersecurity measures would also be essential to maintaining trust and ethical usage of sensitive data within the system.

By acknowledging these challenges and working together to overcome them, Southeast Asia can leverage on the power of AI and prompt engineering to build a smarter, more efficient, and sustainable air traffic management system. This system will not only ensure the smooth and safe journeys of millions of passengers but also contribute to the region’s economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

1. Kabashkin, I., Misnevs, B., and Zervina, O (2023). Artificial Intelligence in Aviation: New Professionals for
New Technology, Special Issue Application of Artificial Intelligence in Engineering, Appl. Sci. 13(21), 116660
2. Manning, C. (2020). Artificial Intelligence Definitions, Stanford University (Human Centered Artificial Intelligence),
3. Waldron, G. (2023). Asia-Pacific Nations Eye More Efficient Air Traffic Management. Flight Global.

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