Enabling a third revolution in aviation

Rapid innovation in aviation holds great promise for citizens and businesses in Europe. Thanks to new technologies, flying is becoming cleaner, quieter and safer, while many new applications are being developed as a result of unmanned systems. To reap the social and economic benefits of these innovations, however, Europe needs to develop a new generation of Air Traffic Management (ATM). This is precisely the task of SESAR.

A crucial part of Europe’s infrastructure

The European Union’s SESAR initiative has chosen the Airbus ProSky affiliate to lead RNP (Required Navigation Performance) implementation across Europe

On a clogged motorway, even drivers of high-performing sports cars must deal with traffic. The same holds true for aviation: The best aircraft is only as good as its surrounding infrastructure. Unfortunately, the current management of Europe’s airspace is reaching its limits. Whilst there has been progress towards creating a Single European Sky, air traffic management is still highly fragmented in the EU. In addition, the technology used not just in Europe but around the world dates back to the 1950s and 1960s.

To tackle this issue, the EU has spearheaded SESAR, which brings together around 3,000 experts from Europe and beyond. As the technological pillar of Europe’s ambitious Single European Sky (SES) initiative, SESAR is the mechanism which coordinates and concentrates all EU research and development activities in Air Traffic Management.

Digitalising Air Traffic Management

A real step-change in ATM would bring enormous economic benefits to Europe. According to the European Commission, inefficiencies in Europe's fragmented airspace result in costs of almost 5 billion Euros annually to airlines and the flying public. A fully digitalised, satellite-based ATM system would save time, fuel and emissions. Circling over an airport while waiting for a landing slot would become a thing of the past. Moreover, the system is moving from managing several thousand aircraft in the sky every day to potentially hundreds of thousands of highly connected and automated air vehicles, including flying taxis and drones – many of which may operate within densely populated areas.

SESAR’s role will therefore be crucial over the coming years: Following the invention of the aircraft and the introduction of the jet engine, digitalisation promises to bring about the third revolution in aviation. Air Traffic Management will be both the enabler and a driver of this exciting development. 

Managing urban airspace

To lay the regulatory groundwork, the European Commission has developed the concept of “U-Space”, as an efficient framework to operate drones in urban air space at lower levels across the EU with a high degree of automation. The Commission’s aims for U-Space to be operational from 2019.

Bringing ATM into the 21st Century has become a pressing task for the EU, and one that holds great promise. As a leading member of SESAR, Airbus is fully engaged in the efforts to modernise Europe’s Air Traffic Management system. We also welcome the U-Space initiative as it could encourage innovation and support new business models.


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