If you are interested in helping to shape what “Super NOTAMS” might look like, join us May 8-12 for the NOTAM SPRINT.
2023 has already been an amazing year for progress on Notam-Fixing, and we are getting close to the finish line. You can help push us across! Share the poster and tell your NOTAM friends 👪 …
NOTAM SPRINT: How to get involved
For five days in May, we will come together to finalise the design and build of a SuperNOTAM system. It’s called a sprint because we’re going to do in five days what might otherwise take a year. That probably sounds like a lots of work: nah, just lots of quick decisions.
Register here for NOTAM SPRINT 2023.
Quick refresh: where are we (and who are we)?
The Notam Alliance is a team of NOTAM end-users: pilots, dispatchers, airlines, and aircraft operators.
We are spread out across the world, but we all agree: NOTAMS are awful, and we need to fix them. The Big Problem is this: PILOTS CAN’T SEE THE CRITICAL STUFF (read more on that).
For almost 60 years we’ve seen various attempts to try and improve NOTAMs, with improvement only beginning to be seen in the last few years.
In 2021 we ran a Global Campaign with ICAO, IFALPA and IFAIMA to eliminate “Old NOTAMs”. Result: some success, much more to do.
In January 2023 the FAA system failure got everyone interested again, and in February we got together to look at the Big Problem with fresh eyes. We agreed that if we focus on this, we can solve it.
In February 2023 we took on a challenging question: “What do pilots want?“. Tough to answer: we like knowing about closed runways and fuel outages, and not birds and grass cutting – but what about all the things in between? After 8 weeks of group effort (50 people took part), we came up with a list of 50 tags. So, now we know what we want (and don’t).
In March 2023 we ran several weeks of tests using Large Language Models (LLM’s), like Chat GPT 4, to see how well random NOTAMs could be understood by a machine. The results show that Artificial Intelligence has reached a point that it can understand a NOTAM with >98% reliability. That means that instead of having to rely on source changes at the NOTAM Offices, we can use AI instead. Game-changer!, as they say.
In May 2023 we will run a NOTAM SPRINT to bring all of these developments together and design a prototype system to post-process NOTAMs, tag them, summarise them, and then sort/filter into a newly designed briefing package. We’ll do that as a group of end users, so we’re certain we’re making something that works for us.
Step 1: Tags: What Pilots Want
We ran this project for eight weeks in February and March 2023. 50 people – mostly pilots and dispatchers, took part. There were 140 different discussion topics, and we got down into the weeds. Is a Stopbar a runway light or a taxiway light? What are the most critical Runway NOTAMs? Are radar outages important? Are Obstacle Lights and New Obstacles of different importance? Seemingly endless questions, but end they did, and we got through it all. The result: 50 tags, divided into 9 categories (ATC, Airport, Approach, Runway, Taxiway, Navigation, Airspace, Hazards, and Library).
For example, here’s our list of tags that can be applied to Runway NOTAMs.
So, now we have a solid list of tags that we can apply to any NOTAM in the world, and use those tags to sort and filter our briefing package. That means we don’t need to rely on hit-and(-usually)-miss Q-codes and keywords. Each tag is designed to apply only to NOTAMs that have equal criticality. We deliberately didn’t decide how critical any NOTAM tag is – each operator can decide that for themselves.
Step 2: Tags + AI
ChatGPT has shown how interesting/exciting/scary AI can be, but for NOTAMs, there’s only one important question. Can AI read and understand a NOTAM? Yeah, it can. With very minimal training, we can give AI a series of raw NOTAMs: it will read, understand, summarise (7 simple words), and tag the NOTAM. What’s new here? We didn’t use Q-codes to do this, nor keywords.
Step 3: SuperNOTAM Briefings
OK, so we have our list of tags, and AI can apply them to any NOTAM, and provide a quick summary. That’s pretty awesome. A couple of years ago we designed some NOTAM Briefing packages. We’re now ready to start using them!
That’s exciting, but there’s a lot of work still to do in figuring out what goes where. We need a ruleset. In other words, for a given airport (Departure, Destination, Alternate, Enroute Alternate, ETOPS Alternate, Other), what order should the tags go in (how to sort them), and what tags should be filtered out?
NOTAM SPRINT – The Big Goal
In five days, we’re going to create a framework to take a given set of NOTAMs, apply tags, and create a ruleset to sort and filter them. We’ll also design a briefing package, and build a protype to do all this automatically. EASY (🤣)!!
Register here for NOTAM SPRINT 2023.
Why do this sprint?!
2023 has been a funny year for NOTAMs. After 58 years of trying (The FAA first published their intent to fix Notams in 1964), we’re actually seeing solutions start to materialize. Part of that is due to the big uptick in interest in NOTAMs after the January failure. Part of that is due to the advances in AI. We’re getting really close. But there’s little certainty that we’ll get what we want, if we don’t do it ourselves.
What is certain is that we’ll see some NOTAM pseudo-solutions appear in the next 18-24 months. The first type is the governement effort – the FAA is seeking $19,600,000 as of April 28th, 2023, to build a replacement system. If that actually gets built on schedule, it might “fix NOTAMs” for the United States, but it won’t fix it for the other 192 ICAO member states. Even US airlines won’t benefit – the moment they operate outside the fifty states, they’re back to the “international system”.
The second type will be a further slew of iPhone and Android apps, or even Web apps that will do some impressive stuff with NOTAMs, probably using AI. That’s nice, but the Big Problem won’t be solved this way. We don’t get our NOTAMs from the web, or apps. We get them in our BBP’s (Big Briefing Packages) – so this is what we must fix.
Who should take part?
Most critically, airlines and aircraft operators that feel the pain of NOTAM processing. And it is a pain: most large airlines have at least a handful of people working full-time to process NOTAMs as they come in, trying their best to Q-code and filter the volume down to a manageable size for aircrew. We need pilots and dispatchers to act as the “customer” and make sure we make something that works. We need some designers, and some AI/LLM/API/Back End coders.
Five days – sounds like a lot?
You don’t need to show up for all the days, in fact you don’t need to show up at all! Just offer your support and assistance where you can: our core team will push the process along each day, and every little bit of help, helps. We’ll do a daily newsletter with “What we did today”
We’ll have a Zoom call each day, but again, no need to participate: wait for the evening briefing and just send us some comments and thoughts as we go forward. If you have time to jump in, then that’s awesome.
Register here for NOTAM SPRINT 2023. And we’ll see you Monday May 8th to kick things off!
What if it works?
If our optimism is with merit, we will end up with a working prototype by the end of the week.
The lynchpin of this effort is creating open-source blueprint that everyone is able to use. So, we’ll create an expansive “how to implement this” that every aircraft operator will be able to use. This is really important! We don’t want to create a closed-use, commercial product – we want to solve NOTAMs for everyone.