Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


OPTICS Report Summary

Project ID: 605426
Funded under: FP7-TRANSPORT
Country: Belgium

Periodic Report Summary 2 - OPTICS (Observation Platform for Technological and Institutional Consolidation of research in Safety)

Project Context and Objectives:
OPTICS is a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) funded by the European Commission that aims to provide oversight of progress in Research and Innovation (R&I) targeting aviation safety improvement in relation to the Flightpath 2050 goals. OPTICS aims to provide this oversight by implementing a sustainable process that supports stakeholders with strategic recommendations and a comprehensive overview of the aviation safety research landscape. OPTICS implements methodologies to perform the assessment of progress both from a technological perspective and from the societal and economic perspective. Such assessments are performed on an annual basis, in close collaboration with expertise drawn from the industry through a series of workshops, exploiting the network developed by ACARE. OPTICS performs these assessments for four years from 2014 to 2017, eventually addressing all relevant on-going initiatives tackling aviation safety research.

The assessments result in the provision of an annual report that identifies main performers, gaps and obstacles in the research landscape, and that formulates strategic recommendations, corrective actions and suggested priorities. The findings are presented and discussed with the aviation community at an annual OPTICS safety conference. The results of the annual state-of-the-art review, together with relevant basic data and project information are made available in the OPTICS repository, accessible on a dedicated website. OPTICS ensures co-ordination and wherever possible creates synergies with other actions supporting challenges complementary to safety.

Project Results:
The first OPTICS yearly deliverable provided an overview of the state-of-the-art of aviation safety research as arises from two main performed activities:
• the assessment of 44 FP7 projects that may have improvement of aviation safety as primary objective, and
• the conduct of an Expert Workshop focusing on Human Factors.

Project coordinators were invited to review the results of the OPTICS assessment of their project, while the final responsibility for the assessment remains with OPTICS. The feedback from this review opportunity provided further confidence in the project assessment results. The Expert Workshop attracted a reasonable cross-section of Human Factors experts and reached a good degree of consensus on the top issues in Human Factors for aviation safety, which were also concordant with the synthesised results of the project assessments.

The activities have given a realistic initial picture of the aviation safety R&I progress. This initial picture included maturing innovations with a strong potential to improve aviation safety value, and also projects of lower maturity that nevertheless tackle key strategic safety issues. On the other hand, for many capabilities no associated projects were identified. Some capabilities have numerous projects that collectively do not address the full scope of the capability. Projects that address the full scope of a capability are scarce.

Observed potential gaps in research are related to addressing specific environmental hazards, domains and operations other than commercial aircraft operations, a number of global aspects (e.g., global CNS coverage and integration of safety data through all stakeholders), and passenger management. In Human Factors, a game-changing priority is to foster an industrial and organisational culture that values Human Factors, while other priorities are the human performance envelope, automation, and the integration of Human Factors into design engineering practices.

A number of bottlenecks were identified in the adoption of research results. These specifically concern data issues (sharing of data and data protection), legal and organisational issues surrounding changing stakeholder responsibilities (e.g., automation), realising radical innovative ideas, and certification issues (regarding e.g, automation and mitigation of environmental hazards).

The safety-related part of the SRIA provided a good structure for the assessments. Its points of improvement include the large scope of some capabilities, clarification of the enabler clusters, and the use of R&I needs below the level of capabilities. Furthermore, three potential supplements were identified: training and selection for the pilot and controller of the future, security impacts on safety, and a common Human Factors education system.

In December 2014 a 2-day OPTICS Dissemination Event was held at the EC in Brussels, gathering 80 experts across the aviation spectrum, covering both political and research perspectives on aviation safety research needs. Feedback from the conference was very positive, and a second one was planned for November 2015, to be held at EASA.

The conclusions at the end of the first reporting period gave rise to a number of recommendations, as follows:

(1) The aviation safety research community and the EC are recommended to take account of the identified potential gaps, being aware that the true gaps may only appear after completion of the OPTICS assessment in following years.
(2) The aviation safety & Human Factors research community and the EC are recommended to address the potential gaps related to Human Factors.
(3) The aviation safety research community, the industry and the EC are recommended to take account of the identified bottlenecks in the adoption of research results.
(4) ACARE is recommended to address the discussed feedback on the SRIA.

During the second reporting period (March 2015 - August 2016), there have been two more additional expert workshops and dissemination events. In April 2015 a workshop was held focusing on safety research for air vehicle operations and traffic management with an emphasis on weather issues, data-sharing, autonomy and aircraft and system self-healing. The workshop attendees gave most focus on data-sharing and autonomy, stimulated by presentations in these areas from NASA, EUROCONTROL and EASA. Ten recommendations arose from the workshop, e.g. the need for an updated and relevant concept of operations (CONOPS) for integration of drones and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) into air traffic systems, as well as the need to create data-sharing as soon as possible. Few experts in weather were available, and the area of self-healing showed that there is still much to do.

In October 2015 OPTICS dissemination was carried out via extensive participation in Aerodays 2015 in Westminster, London, via an OPTICS stand and a well-attended presentation (80 people) on the OPTICS methodology and findings. At Aerodays 2015 ACARE made a decision to update the Strategic Research & Innovation Agenda (SRIA), and since this time OPTICS has been informing that process for Safety, via regular inputs to ACARE's WG4 on Safety & Security.

At the end of 2015 the Second State-of-the-Art Report (SOAR) was delivered. This added assessments of major European programmes into the ongoing evaluation of whether we are doing the right research, via a focus on how SESAR, Clean Sky and Future Sky Safety programmes are helping this progress, as well as FP7 projects whose safety relevance was 'implicit' rather than direct. It was found that indeed these programmes are helping, e.g. SESAR is adding the air traffic component to the first year's mainly cockpit-focused projects, thus aiding system-wide safety, and Future Sky Safety for example is focusing on the Human Performance Envelope, one of the key recommended research areas from the first OPTICS Workshop. This second SOAR also unveiled for the first time the developing Societal Impact methodology, which had been applied to four FP7 projects as a proof of concept evaluation.

April 2016 saw the third OPTICS Expert Workshop and Dissemination Event take place at EASA in Cologne, with a focus on societal expectations, and the impact of politics on passenger safety. A broad range of experts including COOs all agreed that the only way forward is through more collaboration between all parties, including the regulatory body, via what EASA has proposed in the form of Collaborative Analysis Groups and its Data4Safety programme. Presentations from SESAR, CleanSky and Future Sky Safety all showed how safety R&I is being carried out which can bring us closer to the goals of Flightpath 2050. The final day of this 3 day event gave an opportunity for some of the researchers to present their projects, including more advanced research such as using brainwaves to help control air traffic, and the advent of personal helicopters.

In the third year there has been a focus on projects at the national level. Gaining access to such projects and their data has proven challenging, but 46 projects have been evaluated and their contribution to achievement of the Flightpath 2050 goals has been mapped in the third state of the art report. OPTICS is thus progressing well, and now planning its final year.

Potential Impact:
In the final year there will be a focus on international research on aviation safety and innovation research, This will allow the completion of the 'OPTICS picture' of how far we are achieving the Flightpath 2050 goals, based on four years of project and programme analysis. It is hoped we may gain access to North and South America, Russia, China and Japan, and Australia, in terms of leading edge safety research and innovation projects to give OPTICS a global picture.

The final Expert Workshop will focus on 'Safer New Designs' [the Resilience enabler from the SRIA], and will be held at CIRA in Capua in April 2017.

OPTICS will also continue its societal and market impact assessment, focusing on approximately 20 safety research projects.

The expected final results will be an overview of where aviation safety research is performing well, where promising research avenues could be fast-tracked, where non-productive avenues could be re-orientated, and where there are key gaps that need to be closed, or bottlenecks that need to be removed. There may also be redirections for the SRIA, which is currently being updated, related to safety research, that will help refocus the SRIA where necessary, e.g. on drone research, and also on data sharing, moving from forensic safety research to safety intelligence, and incorporating Big Data.

OPTICS will also conclude on the societal impact of aviation safety research. For example, the degree to which the R&I 'infrastructure' is functioning well and how it can be improved, and also the degree to which the research helps passengers feel more comfortable about the safety of air transport.

The final Dissemination Event will take place in Brussels (EC Covent Garden) in June 2017, wherein the 'whole OPTICS story' will be presented, along with keynotes from international aviation research institutes, and the most promising key research projects from Europe.

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