In keeping with its pioneering spirit, Airbus has joined forces with key European stakeholders to find new solutions for building a more efficient air traffic management (ATM) system.
The company has an active role in the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) initiative, part of its commitment to shaping the future of air transportation and driving sustainable growth around the world.
"SESAR has five objectives that we're working on in parallel: increase capacity at airport level; enhance flight efficiency; increase safety; lower costs; and reduce the environmental footprint of aviation,” explained Patrick Schuster, Airbus Engineering Director, Multi-Program Projects and ATM.
Partnering for smarter aviation
The SESAR Joint Undertaking is a public-private partnership established in 2007 to modernise Europe’s air traffic management system by coordinating and concentrating all relevant research and innovation efforts in the European Union.
SESAR includes members from across Europe’s air traffic management sector: airports, air navigation service providers and manufacturers, airspace users, aircraft and equipment manufacturers, pilots and air traffic controllers.
"Capacity, particularly in Europe, is limited both in the air and on the ground,” Schuster added. “In order for Airbus to help its customers grow their fleets, we need to find ways to build a more efficient air traffic management system."
Applying Airbus expertise for SESAR
In 2016, the SESAR joint undertaking is wrapping up its first wave of research projects – called the SESAR 1 phase – and is preparing to start SESAR 2020 activities. This next step will in particular deploy mature SESAR 1 concepts and solutions on a significant number of revenue flights, with the goal of starting very large scale demonstrations in real airline conditions by 2019.
Airbus already has made significant contributions to testing and demonstrations conducted so far during SESAR 1 – including performing some 60 flights for the initial 4D (i4D) trajectory trials as part of its role in the PEGASE (Providing Effective Ground & Air data Sharing via Extended Projected Profile) consortium.
This concept connects the jetliner and ground systems to optimise trajectory in three dimensions (latitude, longitude and altitude) plus time with real-time exchange of trajectory information – the Extended Projected Profile – between aircraft and air traffic management systems. According to Jérôme Condis, Airbus Engineering Data Link and FMS Manager, 4D trajectory management has huge potential to create more efficient aircraft operations and arrival sequences, while reducing fuel burn and aviation’s environmental footprint.
Making air traffic management more efficient
Another area Airbus has focused on is improving the workload share between pilots and air traffic controllers, such as for separation assurance – where a certain distance must be maintained between aircraft on approach. The company participated in testing and development for research into more advanced cockpit systems that would help the pilots keep a proper distance, while freeing controllers for other activities.
"SESAR technologies have progressed stepwise from simulators to test flights. Now, we’re pushing to get onto revenue flights," Condis said. "The skies and the airports are getting more congested. Doing nothing is not an option!”
Airbus also is using its position as a leading aircraft manufacturer to work with the airline community. This summer the company invited 12 European carriers to its headquarters in Toulouse, France – along with members of the SESAR Executive Committee – for a customer focus group to brief the airlines on SESAR’s achievements and future cooperation opportunities.