SESAR commits EUR 1.9 billion to modernising Europe's air-traffic management
On 12 June the SESAR ('Single European sky air-traffic management research') joint undertaking, founded by the European Commission and Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation, signed agreements committing EUR 1.9 billion to research efforts that will help to alleviate air traffic congestion in European skies. Commission support is shared between the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the Trans-European Transport Network Executive Agency (TEN-T EA).
European air-traffic management (ATM) technologies are currently being used at maximum capacity. Although there are more than 33,000 flights through European air space on busy days, a single ATM system for Europe is incipient. To meet the ever-growing demand for air travel, European ATM technologies and systems need to be harmonised and modernised. To that end, the 'Single European Sky' initiative was launched by the Commission in 2004 to structure air space and navigation services across Europe.
SESAR represents the technological side of the Single European Sky initiative. The joint undertaking is developing a new-generation ATM system that will ensure the safety and fluidity of air transport worldwide over the next 30 years. Specifically, it is coordinating and concentrating all ATM research efforts so that Europe can handle a threefold increase in air traffic by 2020 while improving safety by a projected factor of ten. SESAR also aims to reduce the environmental impact of air travel by 10% per flight by reducing fuel requirements.
SESAR's development phase is estimated to cost EUR 2.1 billion, which will be shared between the EU, Eurocontrol and industry (EUR 700 million apiece). Over the next 7 years (2009-2016), the joint undertaking will finance 295 research projects through its 16 ATM partners, focusing on both short- and long-term solutions to air-traffic congestion and promoting sustainability in the European air-transport system. The joint undertaking partners hope that a new, modernised ATM system will cut related expenses by half.
Each of the 16 'work packages' comprises projects that will develop and deliver operational and technical materials (e.g. specifications, procedures, prototypes, or validation activities) that will enable the progressive deployment of a new European ATM system. The new components and operational procedures are expected to be implemented gradually between 2012 and 2020. 'But it is essential that we can also identify and develop quick wins for implementation from 2010,' said SESAR Executive Director Patrick Ky.
The joint undertaking plans to increase automation support for air traffic controllers and pilots; increase 'environmentally friendly' operations at airports; and implement a 'rolling network operation' plan that takes into account real-time situations such as weather and traffic evolution, among many other objectives.
The scope of the work is vast. One of the 16 work packages focuses on enhancing trajectory management functions, controller tools and safety nets, queue management and route optimisation features. Another is developing an aviation intranet, which is expected to greatly improve ATM information sharing (information could be accessed directly from the aircraft, for example).
'Public-private funding kicks in to support ATM research and development at a time when global economic uncertainty is prompting businesses to manage their cash with extreme caution,' said Antonio Tajani, European Commission Vice-President in charge of transport. 'On top of green and safety objectives, SESAR will also contribute to the viability of the entire sector, as it will cut air transport operating costs in the longer term.'
The 16 new contracts are with air navigation service providers (DSNA in France, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung in Germany, ENAV in Italy, AENA in Spain, NORACON covering northern Europe and Austria, and the UK's NATS 'En Route' Limited); ground and aerospace manufacturing companies (Frequentis, Indra, Natmig, SELEX Sistemi Integrati and Thales); aircraft manufacturers (Airbus and Alenia Aeronautica); airports (SEAC, a consortium of six airport operators, AENA and NORACON); and manufacturers of airborne equipment (Honeywell and Thales).
'SESAR's innovative work to build the future European air traffic management system and to fit it within a global context is well underway and will deliver important benefits to society and airspace users alike,' said Eurocontrol Director General David McMillan.
The European Air Traffic Management Master Plan was endorsed by a Decision adopted by the Council of the European Union in March this year. As part of the Master Plan, SESAR will use the Single European Sky (SES) legislation to coordinate and consolidate technological, economic and regulatory efforts in ATM, and to consolidate resources so that improvements in both airborne and ground systems can be implemented throughout Europe. The Plan will be reviewed again in March 2010.
Related stories: 24533
Data Source Provider: European Commission; SESAR
Document Reference: Based on information from the European Commission (IP/09/911)
Subject Index: Aerospace Technology; Automation; Business aspects; Coordination, Cooperation; Energy Saving; Information and communication technology applications ; Information Processing, Information Systems; Legislation, Regulations; Network technologies ; Scientific Research; Transport