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Towards the Single European Sky

Europe’s air traffic management system is fragmented and is reaching its full capacity. This challenges smooth air traffic and results in more delays. At the same time, pressure is rising with new types of aircraft entering the airspace. The European Commission has developed key initiatives to tackle this problem. Now is the time to accelerate making the Single European Sky a reality.

The increase in air traffic and a rising number of drones require a coordinated response for the European sky. The European Commission has taken first steps to overhaul and modernise the existing air traffic management (ATM) system. The Commission has mandated SESAR, a public-private partnership, as well as EUROCONTROL among others to create a truly European solution. This means strengthening a network-centric approach and selecting appropriate ATM functionalities: Synchronisation in a timely manner is key. A more efficient ATM system can reduce CO2 emissions by 6% alone. Now, this solution needs to be put into practice.

SESAR: Modernising European Airspace

SESAR is the technological pillar of the Single European Sky. Now, SESAR’s ATM Master Plan has been developed and offers concrete technological solutions to make the Single European Sky a reality. Three components are essential: Digitalisation, automation and connectivity. New digital technologies have the ability to improve airspace efficiency. Automation improves many basic functions. Connectivity helps air traffic and data service providers, irrespective of national borders, to plug in their operations where needed. This enables Europe to overcome the fragmentation.

U-space plays an ever bigger role

There is a growing number of so called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in European skies. They offer solutions to pressing mobility issues but add to existing air traffic. This poses a challenge for air traffic controllers. This is where UTM – UAS Traffic Management – steps in to enable the safe integration of new aircraft. U-space is the EU regulatory framework proposal for UTM, which includes a set of services designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace.

Designing a new airspace

The emergence of UAS and the increase of air traffic requires a new airspace architecture. The future architecture provides an extra layer for new aerial vehicles and re-defines targeted systems in place for each layer. An integrated and rationalised ATM infrastructure will manage all air operations and allow for scalable functions (see graph below). This will allow for safe and efficient air travel in Europe.

Taking off towards a Single European Sky

The SESAR programme is modernising the ATM system with innovative technologies. This task requires collaboration: All stakeholders need to make their contribution now to achieve the Single European Sky. The joint stakeholder declaration is an important first step. This will ultimately ensure safe and efficient flight operations in the future and contribute to reach full environmental benefits for aviation.

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