The digital age of aviation will revolutionise flight. With its Blueprint for the Sky, Airbus outlines a roadmap for the integration of autonomous aircraft and welcome a new era of aviation – safely, efficiently and fairly.
Our skies are busier than ever. And with commercial air traffic set to double in the next 15 years, they will only get busier. In the near future, there will be 25,000 manned flights in the air at any given time. They will soon be joined by an entirely new type of aviation: unmanned, autonomous aircraft.
Already, Airbus is testing small cargo drones and self-piloting electrical vehicles to transport goods and people faster and more efficiently. This is the beginning of a new era in aviation, an exciting time that promises huge opportunities. But it also brings risks that need to be addressed now. Safety is a fundamental rule in aerospace and new forms of flight require new traffic management systems to safely accommodate this opportunity.
This blueprint is a roadmap for collaboration and cooperation that puts safety on an equal footing with technological advancement. It supports policies and rulemaking that can regulate autonomous operations to ensure that air transport remains as safe tomorrow as it is today.
- Tom Enders, Airbus CEO
How to integrate autonomous aircraft
To address the issue, an unmanned traffic management (UTM) project dubbed Altiscope has released Blueprint for the Sky: The Roadmap for the Safe Integration of Autonomous Aircraft. “Airbus has always been on the forefront of innovation in the skies, from our origins among Europe’s aerospace pioneers, through jet age creations such as the Concorde and the Airbus A380,” says Tom Enders, Airbus CEO. "This blueprint is a roadmap for collaboration and cooperation that puts safety on an equal footing with technological advancement. It supports policies and rulemaking that can regulate autonomous operations to ensure that air transport remains as safe tomorrow as it is today."
The Blueprint was reviewed by a number of independent parties, including representatives from IATA, NATCA, GUTMA, the World Economic Forum and the New Zealand Ministry of Transport. It outlines a range of topics for a new age of flight, from stakeholder roles to air traffic configuration and system architecture.
Collaboration is key
Above all, it emphasises a need for all parties to work together. Governments and industry professionals around the world have already initiated efforts to address the topic. While these efforts are highly individualised, with each region using different terminology and structure, their architectures, underlying principles to UTM and overall approaches are actually very similar. Each one consists of systems run by regulatory authorities, independent service providers, data providers, operators and aircraft. This step is positive, but it is necessary to unify and harmonise these systems to ensure all vehicles and technology built for one region will be interoperable across regions.
Autonomous flight will change our skies. Tomorrow’s airports will be all around us – in our homes, our workplaces or on the roofs of buildings. Blueprint outlines the information, rules and procedures needed to realise this vision and enable a new revolution in aviation – safely, efficiently and fairly.