The US air traffic controllers (ATCs) might soon manage the country's airspace with a new software tool developed by Nasa.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in the process of deploying the Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSAS) software at airports to enable pilots to use their flight deck automation for reducing fuel consumption and noise.
The tool will allow more flights to merge together at a point for final approach and landing clearance.
The technology is said to reduce the workload of ATCs by automating certain procedures and communications with flight crews, leading to the reduction of emissions, air traffic congestion and fuel consumption.
Nasa aeronautics research mission directorate associate administrator Jaiwon Shin said: "With TSAS, Nasa's aeronautical innovators have developed another valuable tool that will benefit our environment, our economy and every individual air traveller.
"Our strong partnership with the FAA is a key enabler of the rapid and successful development of this TSAS technology."
Nasa began developing the software in 2009, while the testing and system integration of the prototype was started in 2011.
Since then, the tool has undergone various high-fidelity tests involving controllers and pilots. The FAA started conducting its tests in 2014.
After receiving a final investment decision for the programme, the agency now plans to deploy TSAS in the National Airspace System at nine major airports in Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Denver and Los Angeles, between 2018 and 2022.
FAA NextGen assistant administrator Edward Bolton said: "We look forward to seeing many benefits from TSAS.
"We expect that it will enhance existing technologies that we use to efficiently handle traffic in the airport environment."
Image: The use of the tool will help in reducing noise and fuel emissions. Photo: courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration.