BeyondATC took the flight simulation world by storm during FSExpo 2023, where it emerged as a highly promising new ATC solution for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Although plenty of information was shared by the developer then and in the following days, new data continues to pour out about this project and its ambitious scope. Today, we share with you a recent interview between the lead developer of Beyond ATC and the well-known Youtube channel OverKill Simulations, which has given us an insider’s perspective into the design, execution, and future plans for the software that’s currently making waves in the flight simulation community.
Beyond ATC aims to provide users with an immersive and interactive air traffic control experience, offering real-time, voice-controlled interaction powered by AI. With its intuitive, user-friendly design, the program allows users to install and start using the software with minimal setup, focusing on its ease of use.
The developer, identified by his call sign “Captain,” shared insights into his background and the journey to creating Beyond ATC. With a background in video game and enterprise software development, his passion for flight simulation stemmed from fond childhood memories, and dissatisfaction with the limitations of existing ATC programs.
“The entire time we’ve been flying flight sim and seeing it evolve from the old pixelated graphics to this incredible piece of technology, we’ve been enjoying it but also seeing a gap in the ATC experience. We felt that the experience of using ATC could be more natural and immersive, so we decided to create Beyond ATC.” Captain explained.
The creation of Beyond ATC was spurred on by a simple question: Why not use AI technology to enhance the ATC experience? The result is an innovative product that allows users to communicate with ATC as pilots would, fluently and naturally.
The team’s methodology throughout the development process centered on two core values – simplicity and effectiveness. “The core value that we applied to this whole thing was, it has to be easy and it has to work. It was super important that we adhered to this throughout, as we wanted it to be cohesive” shared Captain.
He further explained how this approach helped the team maintain focus and ensure all features added to the program served their core goals. As a result, Beyond ATC offers a streamlined, user-friendly experience that integrates seamlessly with the user’s flight simulation setup.
So, how will it all work? Rather than directly controlling traffic, Beyond ATC will act as a bridge between existing software, specifically FSLTL and FS Traffic. This strategy aims to enhance the overall immersion of the flight simulation experience by leveraging the strengths of these established tools.
In the first phase of development, Beyond ATC will collaborate with FSLTL and FS traffic to populate the virtual airspace with realistic traffic. By utilizing data sources such as Flightradar24 and a comprehensive traffic database, the tool will accurately inject traffic into the simulation environment. Users can expect to receive precise callouts and radio chatter that align with real-world flight operations. This integration will greatly contribute to the sense of realism and immersion for simmers.
The second phase of development will focus on expanding Beyond ATC’s functionalities to include direct control of traffic. While phase one establishes a foundation for realistic callouts and radio communications, phase two aims to introduce complete control over traffic behavior. This entails developing an intricate system that can handle the separation and sequencing of aircraft, ensuring safe and accurate air traffic management.
However, the development team acknowledges the challenges associated with directly controlling traffic. It requires extensive computational power and intricate calculations to handle the movement and updates of numerous aircraft simultaneously. Striving for optimal frame rates is also a crucial aspect of the experience. Thus, the decision was made to divide the development process into phases and tackle the most critical aspects first.
Beyond ATC will also cater to VFR operations. The tool will support pattern work, enabling users to practice circuit flying and execute touch-and-go maneuvers accurately. Additionally, Beyond ATC plans to incorporate run-up procedures, providing a realistic pre-flight checklist for propeller-driven aircraft.
The release date of BeyondATC will be determined by the completion of the project. The BeyondATC team emphasizes the importance of quality, with the goal of providing a product that is polished and ready for users to take full advantage of. The team firmly believes in delivering a product that lives up to the expectations of its users, a principle rooted in their own experiences as simmers.
While the tentative launch date is set for 2023, the team will not rush the product to market if it does not meet their quality standards.
The pricing model Beyond ATC is considering (and note that these are all just ideas at this moment) is quite different from what we’re used to. The team has contemplated the idea of a one-time purchase, but due to the intensive computational requirements of the AI models, a one-off purchase model becomes challenging.
The developer explained during the interview that, in order to provide a fluid experience to users, AI calculations are performed on the cloud rather than locally, which results in additional costs per request. This approach, while necessary to maintain performance, introduces a need for a sustainable revenue model to offset the cost of these services.
To address this, Beyond ATC plans to offer a basic package that enables users to access all features except the voices. This package would be available for use indefinitely, providing unlimited access to procedural information without audio.
For access to voice features, Beyond ATC proposes a non-subscription-based model comprising different “time packs.” These packs are designed to provide users with a generous amount of time with the software, with the expectation that most casual users would not need to purchase additional packs.
For heavy users, additional top-up packs will be available. These packs, economically priced around $2 dollars, will provide additional hours of voice service.
Beyond ATC is also planning to offer varying tiers of voice quality. This flexible approach allows users to choose from high or low-quality voices based on their individual preferences, further extending the usage time for those who opt for lower quality voices.
Importantly, these time packs are not a source of profit for Beyond ATC. They are merely designed to cover operational costs, ensuring users only pay for what they need without any added markup.
While the exact pricing details are yet to be determined, the base package is expected to be in line with the current market, ranging between $40 to $70.
Clearly, BeyondATC is on to something with its approach to the “ATC problem” in flight simulation. We can only hope the final product matches the project’s ambition, but we’ll have to wait at least a few months to see how this all turns out. As always, we’ll bring you more updated information about its ongoing development as it becomes available!