UK air navigation services provider NATS has commenced full operational service of a new and advanced air traffic control system at Prestwick Control Centre in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Known as iTEC, the new system offers next-generation air traffic control technology that has been developed to enhance airspace capacity.

iTEC also automatically detects possible aircraft conflicts ahead of time, improving aircraft safety.

The system will allow the introduction of ‘Free Route Airspace’ above 28,000ft, which will provide pilots with greater flexibility to fly direct routes, rather than travelling on the existing network of rigid waypoints and airways.

This will help reduce fuel consumption as well as emissions by the airplanes.

NATS Prestwick Centre operations director Alastair Muir said: “An enormous amount of work has gone into getting us to this point. It’s a major milestone both for Prestwick and NATS but also for aviation in the UK.

"It’s a major milestone both for Prestwick and NATS but also for aviation in the UK."

“How we do air traffic control is going to change in the next five years, making flying cleaner, quieter and more fuel efficient and this is a great step forward.”

The new technology will only be used to control aeroplanes at high altitude over Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland.

Over the next five years, the iTEC system will be deployed at NATS’ Prestwick centre in Scotland as well as Swanwick Air Traffic Control Centre in Hampshire, England.

Developed by Spanish information technology company Indra, the new iTEC platform will be interoperable with air traffic management systems across Europe.

Image: Prestwick Air Traffic Control Centre in Scotland. Photo: courtesy of NATS.