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Aircraft and ATM automation symposium

Final Report Summary - AAA (Aircraft and ATM automation symposium)

It is essential to persuade European leaders of the benefits of automation for increasing efficiency of air transportation. At the same time it is important that any evolution in the system take into account all the different parameters. The colloquium set out to address the various issues raised.
The AAA project first goal was to gather together leading players from the various fields of international aircraft operations:
- airlines and pilots, ATM organisations, aircraft and systems manufacturers, passenger and cabin crew;
- organisations, psychologists, aviation authorities, IATA, European Commission.
Its second goal was to encourage a pooling of information at the highest level on current automation initiatives. Its third goal was to encourage an exchange of views on fixture automation projects within a timescale of twenty years in an effort to promote harmonious development of automated systems.

The colloquium proceedings, which will be sent to all participants and interested parties, will circulate the information as widely as possible. A booklet containing a résumé of discussions and conclusions and a number of recommendations for the attention of the relevant authorities will also be published and disseminated.

ANAE carried out the general management of the project and was the interface between the European Commission and the partnership, for both managerial and scientific / technical aspects.

Two committees were set up:
- a programme committee, an international group in charge of defining subjects to be treated, of contacting specialists for lectures and / or round tables. Bernard Ziegler, former vice-president of Airbus, member of ANAE, was president of the programme committee;
- a steering committee, a national group which chose the conference site, organised the conference schedule, managed the mailing and the diffusion of the announcements and took charge of finances. The steering committee met roughly once a month during the project duration. The coordinator acted as chairman of the steering group, with the responsibility of carrying out correct procedures and meeting all deadlines and obligations.

The colloquium's ambitions to gather together an international pool of experts so as to set up an exchange of views fully succeeded: speakers were of a very high calibre, from all the main European and American organisations, industries and institutions. All expressed their satisfaction at the unfolding of the colloquium and at the quality of discussions that had taken place. Attendance was also high (more than 200 participants) thanks to a sustained publicity campaign involving press releases, mail shots, direct contacts, etc.

The current safety level is close to 10-7/h which translates as a fatal accident every 4 weeks on average. If air traffic doubles (as is envisaged towards 2014-20l8) and under the optimistic hypothesis that the rate of collisions will grow linearly, there will be a fatal accident every two weeks, and by 2025-2030, one every week. Although passengers will still benefit from the same safety level in real terms, the psychological impact projected by the media would be unacceptable. It is therefore imperative to progress to a probability of fatal accident of 10-8/h, and this constraint must be factored into the future design of automated systems for aircraft and ATM.

It was decided that two relatively independent approaches must be pursued:
- The first approach would be a systematic study of the evolution in aircraft and ATM automation in order to satisfy safety constraints within the current framework of air transportation. The incidence of each new stage of automation on potential total automation in the future would have to be assessed, but studies during this first stage would not be motivated by the notion of total automation. This theme would also have to take into account the rapid development of UAVs which pose some major problems directly linked to safety when they move out of reserved flight envelopes. An initial overview of military UAVs could rapidly be drawn up but the evolution of technologies used by UAVs and forecasts for future development would have to be constantly monitored, particularly since UAVs will undoubtedly soon be used in the civil domain, for freight transportation for instance. A hierarchy of systems to be automated would have to be elaborated.
- The second approach would immediately be orientated towards total automation of the air transportation system. An initial subject might deal with the optimal structure for a UAV, first for freight transport, then for passengers, based on currently existing UAVs or those in design stage. The different moving elements would have to be identified: aircraft, UAVs, ground vehicles.

Current aircraft are close to being fully automated on the basis of flight data memorised in the FMS. Future automated aircraft might receive ground data into their computer systems but it is likely that the flight management system on board could modify certain data received from the ground in order to optimise flight and make it safer. Such modifications could be transmitted to the ground and diffused to flight management centres. This brings to light a complex problem, that of the coexistence of mixed automated and non-automated aircraft and, above all, that of mixed automated and non-automated control centres.

'Automating control centres' has no meaning: it is very difficult to compute the chains of thought that go on in the brain and to say that controllers will be 'replaced' by computers is meaningless. The problem will have to be profoundly rethought on the ab initio level of global traffic management. Aircraft trajectories will result from calculations effected on the ground and on board. One single worldwide positioning system must be used (WGS-84 or its future versions) and the parameters of these trajectories will be transmitted locally to aircraft in a local space that remains to be defined.

UAVs are aircraft with no pilot on board, which fly automatically after loading flight data, and which have the possibility of rerouting, either by sea and avoid or remote-controlled from the ground. Ground control, and therefore ground-air- ground liaison, is thus necessary even if the drone is flown automatically.

It was considered that two situations would have to be studied:
- a delimited airspace devoted to UAVs alone;
- mixed airspace, with piloted and non-piloted traffic co-existing.