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Observation Platform for Technological and Institutional Consolidation of research in Safety

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

Executive Summary:
The OPTICS project set out in 2013 to determine if Europe was doing the right aviation safety research to deliver us towards a safer future, in accordance with the goals cited in Europe’s vision for aviation, Flightpath 2050. Four years later the team has analysed 243 safety research projects from all over Europe, and indeed, many of these projects are moving us in a safer direction, whether focusing on adverse weather, drones, Human Factors or Resilience.

As well as analysing research projects and programmes, OPTICS ran an annual two-day workshop, where between forty-five and seventy-five experts discussed and evaluated research priorities, and came up with a ‘Top Ten’ hit-list of urgent and strategic research needs. Several of those identified priorities have since been funded by the European Commission, and the resultant research projects are ongoing at the time of writing this final report.

Having answered the question, that we are – broadly speaking – doing the right research, OPTICS turned to several harder questions. How do we compare with other major research players such as the US and China? Is the funded research helping to resolve Europe’s top aviation safety risks? And is the research-to-industry business model working well?

There are lessons to be learned from the answers to these questions, and Europe needs to become more strategic in its safety research, and ‘tighten up’ its business model. But overall the review is positive, and Europe will no doubt continue to carry out world class safety research, preparing us for the challenges that lie ahead in aviation. This report shows that Europe is already on a good track.
Project Context and Objectives:
The Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe (ACARE) has provided Europe with a vision for aviation. To identify a pathway towards this vision, called Flightpath 2050, ACARE developed the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), a roadmap providing guidance on what is required, as well as when it is required, and how it can be delivered via Research and Innovation (R&I) activities.

The SRIA goals are challenging: ensuring that Europe maintains its competitive edge in the global market through sustainable investment in R&I activities, and assuring that aviation achieves the highest levels of safety and security throughout the whole air transport system. A number of projects have been funded to see if we are on the right track towards Flightpath 2050. One such project is OPTICS.

OPTICS is a Coordination and Support Action of the European Commission, working in close co-operation with ACARE on the topic of safety. It provides a comprehensive evaluation of relevant safety research & innovation in aviation and air transport. The main objective of the project is assessing if Europe is performing the right safety research and if the research is delivering the expected benefits to society. Each year OPTICS assessed projects from different research programmes in order to deliver a global view of the state of aviation safety research by 2017.

This was the vision: if we can design, build and certify safer aircraft and air traffic management systems, if we can operate them in safer ways, and if we can optimise the human element on the ground and in the air, we will achieve the goal of one accident in ten million flights, even while ensuring equity in access to airspace for all aviation applications and operations under all weatherconditions. The question is whether the research we are funding and executing is helping us achieve this vision. But this vision is too high-level to evaluate if safety research is progressing in the right direction.

The four Clusters are broken down into ten more concrete Safety Enablers. These Enablers are the key properties of the future system that will deliver the safety goals of 2050, such as a system-wide safety management system (SMS), resilient system designs, and properly balanced human-centred automation. If we achieve these Enablers, we deliver the vision and we will be able to meet the safety goals. Because the Enablers are still high-level, covering broad areas of safety research and engineering, and safety-related disciplines, each Enabler is further broken down into a number of ‘bite-sized’ Capabilities, which are more manageable as research objectives. It is then possible to compare ongoing R&I activities to the Capabilitiesand see where there is research serving them, where it brings the expected benefits to society, and where there are gaps, and hence answer the questions that OPTICS poses: Are we doing the right research? Are we doing theresearch right?

But looking through a lens is not enough, it is sometimes necessary to step back and see the broader picture. For this reason OPTICS has adopted a twofold approach to evaluate safety R&I activities in aviation and air transport, in order to assess if the right research is being conducted and if research is delivering the expected benefits to society. The bottom-up project-based assessment focuses on how safety R&I projects and programmes cover the SRIA Capabilities and hence the Enablers, Clusters and goals – and allows the identification of research strengths and gaps, as well as bottlenecks or constraints affecting research progress. But there is always the chance that the SRIA is missing a relevant research avenue. The bottom-up assessment is therefore complemented by top-down workshops in which aviation experts with an overview of safety R&I identify issues and opportunities.

The experts can look at the SRIA, or completely ignore it, and simply tell us where they think the research priorities lie. Most of the assessment effort in OPTICS was bottom-up, since assessing projects takes time, whereas a three day top-down workshop can yield a prioritised list of top ten research issues in a particular area relatively quickly. The workshops were carried out at Cluster level based on research topics, incorporating a focus on Enablers within that Cluster. These results from bottom-up and top-down processes were then reviewed and compiled to provide strategic recommendations to the EC and ACARE via an annual ‘State-of-the-Art’ report, including suggested corrective actions and priorities.

The state of each Enabler is defined by five criteria:

Coverage is the key criterion that indicates the degree to which research is addressing the full scope of the Enabler. OPTICS found that two Enablers are doing well, seven reach a reasonable level of coverage by research, while one Enabler is completely unaddressed. This picture is encouraging, especially considering the SRIA 2030/2050 targets, but research on Passenger Management is largely missing.

Maturity is next, and tells us how close, on average, research is to commercial uptake – whether it is still at the concept stage, or at the prototype stage, or is conducting live trials and is close to realising its operational potential. Through this indicator, OPTICS tries to understand how research projects actually make it into operational deployment.

Ease of Adoption relates firstly to the economics of the research – will it be too costly to ever implement? Whilst OPTICS has found some projects that fall into this category, most do not. This means that the researchers are not overly ‘dreaming’ when it comes to safety research.

Ease of Adoption also concerns the legal aspects of the research, usually relating to certification requirements should the research mature to readiness. In some cases, the good ideas found in some projects are unlikely to ever make it into practice because the discussions with the regulators did not occur early enough. This is an issue which EASA is concerned about, and the topic was discussed several times during the OPTICS workshops.

The third Ease of Adoption aspect relates to industry’s appetite for what the research is aiming to deliver, and is often called the organisational ‘pull’. Great research will not make it into practice if industry does not know about it or remains unconvinced or is looking at other options. This is a concern to OPTICS, and the 3rd OPTICS workshop was dedicated to understanding how to obtain better industry engagement with the research delivery process.

OPTICS carried on its assessment process incrementally. In the first year, the assessment focused on safety-related FP7 projects. In the second year, the state-of-the-art was integrated with projects from different research programmes: SESAR, SESAR WPE, Clean Sky (C-SKY), Future Sky Safety (FSS), as well as FP7 projects with an implicit, rather than direct, safety goal.

The third year was dedicated to the national research projects in Europe, funded by national or regional funds. SESAR2020 and H2020 Projects were integrated in the fourth year, together with a comparison with some international programmes (USA, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Japan and China).

At the end of the project, after four years of research and assessment of more than 200 projects, OPTICS is able to provide a reasonably complete overview of the status of the European aviation safety research, and how well we are performing against the SRIA goals. OPTICS has also looked outside Europe, performed a comparison with international programmes and answered the questions: are they looking at similar issues, or not? Are they tackling any of the issues in a different way?

Project Results:
In 2014 - the 1st year of OPTICS - 44 projects funded under the European Union FP7 framework programme were assessed. All these projects have an explicit link with safety, they have aviation safety improvement as primary objective.
In the second year an additional 18 FP7 projects were assessed. These projects have an implicit link with safety. They target other objectives than safety, but safety is identified as a crucial issue and is managed. In year two also 17 SESAR projects, 14 SESAR WPE projects, 5 Future Sky Safety projects and 10 Clean Sky projects were assessed. In total 64 projects were assessed in year two of OPTICS.
In the third year a total of 113 projects were assessed that were funded by national or regional funds from EU countries and Switzerland. Projects were identified and assessed from Germany (37), the Netherlands (9), France (37), Italy (18), Austria (2), United Kingdom (9) and Switzerland (1).

In year four 22 projects have been assessed. These are H2020-funded projects - including SESAR2020 - that started in 2016 or after. This includes three international cooperation projects within the H2020-programme: ECO-COMPASS with China, PHOBIC2ICE with Canada and VISION with Japan. More information on the projects assessed in year 4 can be found in Appendix B.
Each assessment is done in three stages: a first assessment by an OPTICS team partner, moderation by another OPTICS team partner and finally a review by the relevant project coordinator. Not all project coordinators provided review comments and for some projects it was not possible to contact the coordinator because no contact information was available to the OPTICS team.

The overall picture is positive. Much of the research assessed over the past four years is on the right track towards the goals of FlightPath 2050, satisfying the enablers and their constituent capabilities. Given that it is currently 2017, and that the roadmap is for 2050, this is a distinctly positive result. Two enablers are doing particularly well: system-wide safety management (enabler 1) and human-centred automation (enabler 8). A significant part of the enabler is covered and - just as important - some research has reached the right maturity level for industry uptake. Significant parts of enabler 4 are covered as well. Passenger management (enabler 10) has no coverage. No research has been found that studies passenger management. The other enablers fall somewhere in between, with medium coverage and maturity.

ENABLER 1: System-Wide Safety Management Systems
Managing safety is a strength of aviation. Most sectors across aviation use a Safety Management System or equivalent, i.e. formal ways of managing safety through analysis of safety and operational data. This helps learning from the past to protect the future, as well as using safety cases to determine if new systems or system changes are safe enough, and if not, to determine what needs to be done. Most of the Capabilities of this Enabler are addressed with a good level of coverage. Aspects that are well addressed by European research concern the implementation of operational risk management systems and the development of tools, metrics and methodologies to assess and proactively manage current and emergent risks. Although complete coverage is not yet achieved, there seem to be no major obstacles in order to implement this innovation using existing data.

The actual adoption of a system-wide SMS that fits the total aviation system - including operations from e.g. small aircraft and RPAS - is still far from happening. Few projects consider the aviation system as a whole, and crossboundary hazards, as well as risk issues dependent on the interactions between stakeholders, are often unaddressed. Addressing the transport system as a whole, including multi-modal safety concerns, is even further from reality.
The lack of data sharing across organisations and sectors of the industry is a serious bottleneck preventing progress. Even when it comes to the research field, constraints are encountered due to confidentiality of data, legal issues, union considerations, etc. As emerged during the 2nd OPTICS Workshop, the only way to reach an overall SMS is to persuade the industry to get on with sharing operational data (not only incident data), and use new data science approaches to ‘see around the corner’.
The Enabler full coverage can only be reached by tackling the transmodal aspects, for example through a multi-modal approach to safety or implementing effective and efficient trans-modal safety regulations and procedures. The former is probably a 2035 issue, and thus is not seen as urgent, while for the latter there is work ongoing via the approach of performance-based regulation (although there are not yet specific research projects on this area). A future potential game-changer, comparable to today’s remotely piloted aircraft systems, could be the arrival of personal vehicles, which would pose novel safety issues (e.g. non-professional pilots). Research exploring the safety aspects of future operational concepts involving personal vehicles should start soon.

All three Capabilities under this Enabler are covered by research. However, the research does not yet provide a means to establish a real time safety radar function. This area could benefit from data acquisition across the aviation system, while up to now only certain segments seem to have been considered, e.g. in the ATM domain.
A significant improvement in the coverage was provided by the analysis of nationally funded projects, which extended the scope of research and addressed additional stakeholders of the aviation system.

The projects address a variety of environmental and external hazards, including extreme weather events, high-altitude icing, and wake-turbulence. The focus is on understanding the characteristic of these hazards and making aircraft resilient to the threats. There is less research on the pro-active identification of these hazards. More focused research is needed to bring the technology readiness level (TRL) closer to an operational safety radar, or at least a prototype. Such a system could be developed in ATM, for example, initially in certain locations but ultimately for the entire European network.
When it comes to behavioural analysis, a large set of aviation stakeholders are addressed, even though additional research for flight crew is needed to achieve the SRIA targets. Similarly, the analysis of passenger behaviour should be extended to situations other than emergency evacuation under fire conditions.

This is a key Enabler since it concerns safe flight operations. As the ‘sharp end’ of safety, it is not surprising that this area is relatively well-served by research. A notable amount of research is being performed on on-board sensors to ensure hazard avoidance in-flight and on the ground. New safety concepts to allow airspace and runway optimisation, and to maximise the use of these resources across the airspace network, are also well addressed.

Projects from all the funding schemes can be found under this Enabler, and research on the identification, warning and avoidance of meteorological and other external hazards (e.g. traffic proximity, wild life, FOD), is quite advanced.
Thus, considering the limited economic and legal constraints for the introduction of such products, a project aimed at bringing together the outcomes of the previous works should be encouraged. This would go a long way to achieving the 2050 goal of being able to operate in more difficult weather conditions.

To what extent the models and technologies developed enable the provision of meteorological information on a strategic, pre-tactical and tactical basis, should also be assessed. Hazard avoidance on the ground remains quite an unexplored area, as well as commercial space operations and integrated search and rescue capabilities. Research on the positive identification of all flying vehicles is also lacking at the moment. Finally, the integration of RPAS and drones into civil airspace needs urgent research, and this research now appears to be starting in earnest. This is timely since at the present there seems to be no stable detailed concept of operations on the table, although the introduction of drones is already happening.This is seen as a game-changer we were not prepared for by research, since most past research focused on large-scale RPAS of the military variety, rather than the smaller ‘domestic’ drones or use of drones by global players such as Amazon and Google. Research in this field should go together with the development of a new CONOPS that accommodates the rapidity and scale of develop ments occurring with RPAS/UAS and their impending integration into airspace.

This new CONOPS must address issues ranging from legal (who is liable in case of an accident?) to regulatory (how must the operators and manufacturers account for safety and protection of the consumer?) to human performance (how can pilots and controllers manage the step-change in traffic complexity that may occur with UAS/RPAS?).

One of the 2050 safety goals concerns tracking of aircraft throughout a mission, addressed only in one national project dedicated to the investigation of technologies enabling global surveillance and vehicle monitoring. A safe and efficient concept of operation is needed as well. The lack of European projects on this topic confirmed ACARE’s Working Group 4 (Safety and Security) opinion that aircraft tracking and search and rescue is under-represented by research. Research on the tracking and monitoring of all flights is lacking as well (although there is a global tracking initiative in place at the moment, under the auspices of ICAO, following the loss of MH370).

Most of the effort under this Enabler is devoted to improving health monitoring capabilities and maintenance processes. This research area is particularly well addressed by national research, which covers a wide range of systems and tools to improve health monitoring and system response to failures. Despite the amount of work, research on self-healing technology is still at a low level of maturity, and additional effort is required to see real progress in the field and accomplish the 2050 goal of enabling automated self-correcting capabilities for all critical systems.
Another gap to be filled is the need to guarantee reliability and security for health management systems, which are vulnerable to risks due to technological limits or malevolent attacks. Health management and self-healing for air vehicle operations in flight and traffic management are also a relatively empty research area. There is a need to overcome current limits in fast and efficient implementation of aircraft system health management, and for the ability to face slowly or rapidly evolving critical situations during flight.

Incident and accident investigation is a cornerstone of safety in the entire aviation system. Recent initiatives have helped to ensure better reporting through just culture and safety culture initiatives, as well as regulations in the area. There is a challenge in obtaining reliable incident data across the air transport system (including general aviation) and making sure the retrieved information is used by all stakeholders. As pointed out during the 3rd OPTICS Workshop, the only sensible way forward is to improve cooperation between the different aviation segments, e.g. via Collaborative Analysis Groups involving all the key stakeholders and data owners. None of the assessed research addresses new sensor technology to capture key safety data. Furthermore, the development of leading indicators of safety (e.g. based on safety culture and processes) is still missing. Lastly, as yet there is no research dedicated to the identification of emergent vulnerabilities, i.e. looking forward to predict the next event. Whether the focus should be on forensic analysis alone, or whether all forms of safety intelligence should be considered by harnessing new technologies such as big data to try to learn before the event and not only afterwards, needs further discussion and research.

Both safety Capabilities under this Enabler are addressed, at least partly. In particular, the development of a common certification framework and the identification of new technologies and methods for the certification and approval process seem to be the most investigated areas in aviation safety R&I, with 28 projects addressing this Capability. The proposed (model-based) methodological framework to tackle key technological challenges for aircraft design and airworthiness certification (e.g. modularity, complex system of systems, etc.) is not yet fully matured. But early linkage to industry standards (e.g. ARP 4761, ARP4754) allows a stepped approach.

However, several segments of the total aviation system are not yet addressed (e.g. light aircraft, although helicopter ditching is now being researched). There is a lack of use of large operational data sets to feed risk models, and the impact of organisational changes is not yet properly addressed. An issue specific to research is that sometimes projects do not consider certification aspects until too late, leading to research ideas that cannot be implemented. Enabler 6 is one of the Enablers characterised by high complementarity with other Enablers. So, research under its Capabilities is seen as a contributory factor to other Capabilities, more as an ease of adoption facilitator than a research area by itself.

Resilience is neither a well-understood nor well-agreed concept, and yet it covers a broad range of areas and domains. This led to the need for the OPTICS team to expand the Resilience Capabilities into sub-capabilities, in order to be able to match projects to this area. To complete the view on this topic, a dedicated OPTICS
Workshop on New Resilient Designs for Aviation was organised. In the SRIA update, ACARE’s Working Group 4 has already determined that this Enabler needs better explanation and rationalisation. Despite this lack of clarity over the concept, there has been a significant amount of research in this area. Ongoing research focuses on design to mitigate environmental hazards, new technologies and improved system designs, as well as new materials and manufacturing techniques to improve survivability. Many of the projects aim to advance engineering and analysis capability, including
Human Factors in design, all of which are cornerstones of Resilience by design.

There is an urgent need to consider the new emerging threats on board, such as personal devices (mobile phones and/or tablets), and to evaluate their impact on the aircraft. A research gap linked to human Resilience concerns the availability of a suitably qualified and adaptable workforce as the aviation industry continues to evolve. This area of Resilience has strong links with Human Factors Enablers and in particular both Human-Centred Automation and New Crew and Team
Concepts. SESAR’s approach for ensuring that the results of safety analyses are fed back into the design process could be extended to other parts of the air transport system.

Research on crashworthiness is also lacking, though this is clearly a Resilience area. This may require some low-TRL research to come up with new ideas. Use of new materials and structures with adaptability properties can support the systems to reduce consequences of failure and increase passenger survivability chances. Improvement of standards in the design for survivability is strongly recommended, as well as learning from other domains where survivability is a key issue.

Human Centred Automation appears to be an area where there is ‘low hanging fruit’, i.e. the research is ready to be brought closer to industrialisation. However, there is a significant blockage, in that Human Factors does not typically enjoy a good position in organisational hierarchies, and there is a tendency to see Human Factors as the final step in design and development, by which time it is too late to ‘get it right’.

Human Factors is seen as complementary research for technology-driven projects. From the comparison with International Research (US in particular), there is a need for HF-driven projects, with a clear focus since the very beginning on operational benefits from the human point of view. Overall, the community is sometimes perceived as being fragmented, heading in different directions, with lack of consolidation of past results. There isn’t a good view on what’s achieved, and it’s possible to find projects doing similar research at different levels of maturity.

This situation could be improved by launching a consolidation project to ‘harvest’ the results of automation research, including projects from other transport modes. Expected outcomes of this project should include the application of results to other industry segments, like maintenance, General Aviation and RPAS pilots, and other aviation workers. Clarifying the current status of automation research will open space for more exploratory, low maturity projects, with a focus on disruptive automation.

Legal aspects of automation are still a bottleneck, as well as the impact of automation of human roles, despite the amount of work on the optimal allocation of functions between human and machine, both in normal and degraded operations. Organisational needs and their resistance could be tackled by benchmarking organisations and industry segments according to their Human Factors “know-how”, then defining strategies tailored for each segment.

As pointed out at the 1st OPTICS Workshop, although automation has been around for a long time in aviation, there are still many unknowns about how to get it right, and in defining what automation entails. Caution was expressed from a regulatory perspective, when addressing adaptive automation and personalisation adapted to an individual’s performance.

Crew Resource Management has been a mainstay of aviation for decades, and a Human Factors success story. However, the
future will almost certainly hold new challenges and new crew concepts. Questions such as how air and ground staff will interact with each other and with RPAS, for example, or future pilotless aircraft or even personal vehicles, remain relatively unaddressed.
There needs to be research to evaluate the potential impact of such future concepts on human performance and safety of the entire air transport system.

Most of the projects in this area focus on solutions or concepts to support pilots or air traffic controllers, while other aviation operators such as remote pilots, engineers, ground handlers or maintenance operators, are not covered by research. The typical focus is on individuals, at best on a 2-persons’ team, which is a limitation in research scope. In the future, more and more jobs will become inter-connected, so team concepts need to extend to the cooperation across professional roles beyond controllers and pilots. Multiple and more diverse organisational cultures are likely to interact as well. A project on the aviation workforce of the future (not only pilots and controllers) has been recommended for Enablers Resilience by Design and Operational Mission Management, and it would be a key advancement also for this Enabler.
Although some projects proposed interesting and mature solutions, their adoption seems still far from becoming a reality. Acceptance issues can be anticipated, e.g. operators’ opposition against being monitored, and opposition against different team concepts (e.g. single pilot operations).

Similarly to high automation level acceptance, there is a need to tackle legaland organisational issues proactively, and at the system level (as a strategic issue, not project by project). Additionally, none of the assessed research addresses the psychosocial needs of crew/team/organisation following a major accident, and passenger/personnel culture.

This area appears at present to be a ‘research desert’. All three safety relevant Capabilities– management of human behaviours during emergencies, post-traumatic stress and psycho-social needs after distress, and passenger culture – are practically unaddressed by European and national projects. Research still needs to occur, at least to reach the short term goals of developing an operational framework for emergency management, training multidisciplinary teams for crisis management and post crisis trauma, and investigating the dimensions of cultural diversity in order to understand their impact and relation with safety procedures. However, it may be noted that in the revised SRIA (July 2017), Passenger
Management is no longer an Enabler, and relevant aspects have been subsumed with other Enablers (especially with respect to Security R&I needs).

Parallel to the project assessments, OPTICS held in 2014 its 1st Expert Workshop Human Factors in Aviation Safety, attended by 77 experts from 17 countries. The Workshop determined the major Human Factors R&I priorities and gaps in the SRIA.
The top 3 priorities in the context of Aviation Safety emerging from the experts’ debate were:
Human Centred Automation. Automation is key for the success of Flightpath 2050, and if the Human Factors associated with how people will use this automation is not properly done, the intended performance benefits won’t be realised.
Human Performance Envelope. A relatively new concept in Human Factors, it is nevertheless a place-holder for the detailed research on a range of Human Factors issues that are poignant in Aviation, including fatigue, workload and situation awareness.
Better understanding of such factors’ interactions, and better methods in these areas are still needed to achieve Flightpath 2050.
Human Factors in Design and Manufacturing. Integration is needed and progress must be made in the identification of a new systems engineering approach, considered as a crucial factor in improving safety across the industry. The experts highlighted complacency as one key danger for Aviation, since safety often appears to be so good, people think there is no need for research. Human Factors R&I must be seen instead as adding safety and productivity to the system, or else it risks staying on the sidelines, rather than being acknowledged as an essential player in assuring future system performance.

The 2nd Workshop was dedicated to Hazard Management and Operational Resilience, attended by 50 experts in aviation safety. The Workshop succeeded in finding a top ten priority list for research directions for four focal areas in aviation and aviation research today: autonomous systems, use of data, self-healing and weather. The resulting top 10 priorities for research directions is given below. The first four represent the top priority in each of the four focal areas.
Develop a new CONOPS that accommodates the rapidity andscale of developments occurring with RPAS/UAS and their impending integration into airspace.
Develop real-time data analysis capability of human and system behaviour, and their interactions, in order to detect precursors to adverse events and initiate protective measures before safety margins are affected.
Demonstrate the safety benefits to aviation and air transportation through the application of resilience in complex socio-technical systems.
Increase the resilience of operation in adverse weather conditions by making possible shared understanding of weather hazards and cooperative building of weather awareness.
Derive a new and more agile Verification and Validation approach for RPAS/UAS, one that includes in-service validation.
Develop advanced models of shared situation awareness and collaborative and dynamic decision-making for fully integrated RPAS/UAS systems.
Determine the success factors in automation and its development cycle that lead to human trust in automation.
A new, fast-track system for feeding back operational data into design needs to be developed. Insights from data analysis should be fed back into design, but this is rarely done except in long time-frames. This has led to a gap between ‘systems-as designed’ and ‘systems-as-used’.
Develop affordable technologies to go beyond current flight limitations in adverse weather conditions.
Use the weather knowledge in the decision chain to optimize the interest of each aviation actor while ensuring safety and global fairness.

In 2016, the 3rd Workshop was co-organised by OPTICS and EASA to talk about how to reconcile Politics and Safety. With 60 participants from all over Europe, representing a diverse range of aviation sectors and research communities, the event saw discussions around four key topics: how to monitor safety; how to ‘see around the corner’ to future safety events and game-changers; how to improve research uptake by industry; and how to ensure effective use of European aviation safety research facilities. Overall, everyone taking part in the 3rd Workshop saw that the only sensible way forward was for more collaboration across the industry, and the need to forge effective and efficient research-industry partnerships.

The final OPTICS Workshop New Resilient Designs for Aviation was dedicated to resilience and survivability, with a focus on novel aircraft concepts, improved materials and new aircraft sensors, crashworthiness and post-crash survivability. In addition, all the other tools, products and services that ensure resilience of systems and operations, and the ability to face current and emerging environmental (safety and even security) hazards were considered. 45 attendees from all over Europe met in Capua, with Italian researchers and industry representatives dominating the participation.
The top 10 priorities identified are:
Barriers to hazards need to be developed in the design stage of the product. The adaptation and application of the “three layers of defence to hazard” approach from the nuclear power industry could lead to a step change in aviation resilience.
Need for advanced control systems in degraded pilot/engine/aircraft situations, together with an HMI that does not overload the pilot with information (“return home capability”).
Need for a global index summarising the “survivability” property of aircraft systems.
Design methods and tools for operations taking into account new threats, new concepts of operations, and new actors.
Improve damage tolerance of materials using novel manufacturing techniques and new multi-functional protective materials.
Invest in the development of predictive sensing of environmental threats (ice and ash).
Need for a performance-based framework for the assessment of resilience (as being developed for safety).
More investigation is needed in modelling aircraft material dynamic behaviour in case of accidents.
Regulators should work on specific standards for survivability.
Technology transfer from nuclear and automotive domains to increase survivability rate in the aeronautics domain.

The OPTICS assessment of 243 aviation safety research projects in Europe forms a basis for international comparison. Information on aviation safety research was collected from six countries outside Europe: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Russia, Japan and China. The international information was analysed in order to answer questions such as: is aviation safety research from outside Europe looking at similar issues, or not? Are they tackling any of the issues in a different way, with better ideas? Mainly due to a lack of detailed information at project level, the international research is not rigorously mapped to the SRIA in detail.

A high-level look at the research topics covered internationally shows that three Enablers are extensively covered: Operational mission management (Enabler 3), Resilience by design (Enabler 7), and Human-centred automation (Enabler 8). Five other enablers are covered to a lesser extent: System-wide Safety Management System (Enabler 1), Safety radar (Enabler 2), Forensic analysis (Enabler 5), Standardisation and certification (Enabler 6), and New crew and team concepts (Enabler 9). No evidence was found - in the sources available to OPTICS - of coverage of System behaviour monitoring (Enabler 4) and Passenger management (Enabler 10). This spread of coverage roughly matches the coverage we found in European research.
Most information was collected for aviation safety research in the United States, mainly via the Research, Engineering, & Development Advisory Committee - REDAC. Additionally, FAA research on Human Factors was considered. Helicopter operations and General Aviation play an important role in US research, presumably due to their importance and exposure. In general, it appears that the volume of research into new propulsion concepts is significantly higher than in Europe.
Both in the US and in Europe emphasis is put on meteorological issues and flight safety. While in Europe most Human Factors activities may be considered as add-on’s to technology-driven projects, the Human Factors research in the US is primarily Human Factors-driven, covering a broader scope than in Europe.

In Canada most effort is put in research on operational mission management. In Brazil the SIRIUS programme aims to further develop the national ATM system. In Russia around one-tenth of the research budget is spent on structural health monitoring, aviation safety regulation and certification. More than half of the budget is spent on new aircraft concepts.
China covers a wide range of topics, with a focus on structural health monitoring, composites, fire modelling and simulation, and icing and lightning protection.

In Japan research is performed on optimized aircraft separation, improvement of surveillance performance and development of a resilient ATM system. The EU/Japan cooperation network SUNJET resulted in several projects that are assessed by OPTICS.

It is reasonable to think that aviation safety research has played a role in the continuous improvement of safe operations within the air transport industry. But this contribution is hard to quantify, with little explicit evidence showing direct causal relationships.
OPTICS assessed all the European Projects of the OPTICS Repository in order to find out whether and to what extent research activities contribute to the eight top risk areas for commercial air transport identified by EASA.

The expert assessment resulted in the identification of 79 relevant projects, each of which mapped onto one or more risk areas. No explicit link with the top risk areas was identified for the remaining 51 projects. These projects include research on systemic topics that can impact multiple risk areas (see OPTICS Deliverable 2.4 for further details).

The research mapping shows that the research coverage of top risks is uneven. The two major risk areas – Aircraft system failure and Airborne conflict – and the most fatal one – Aircraft Upset in flight – are observed to be addressed most by European research activities. However, most of these projects only marginally contribute to the risk areas (low and medium coverage) and this is strongly linked to the already identified maturity bottleneck. Furthermore, little research is found on Abnormal runway contact and excursion, Fire, Ground collision and Ground handling.

The link between the SRIA and European Top Risks was also explored. The link between research strategy and safety issues is not sufficiently clear. Building this link could be a significant step towards a more strategically organised research landscape.
In conclusion, what is needed is a better balance in research investment between tackling the ‘now’ issues, as in these EASA top risks, and delivering the longer term vision supplied via the Flightpath 2050 goals and the ACARE SRIA.

The future of air transport relies on increased investment in the safety technologies of tomorrow, as the market demands shorter cycles for the integration of new technologies, and international competitors enter the market with an aggressive approach on prices. In this regard, one of the expected benefits of European aviation safety research investment is the potential influence on the standardisation and regulatory process.

OPTICS investigated whether European research contributes to the development or improvement of existing or new Industry Safety Standards. Expectations were that on average 2 standards may be derived from the outcomes, including technical as well as procedural standards, standards of global and local applicability, and of various levels of development. When asked, all of the project coordinators indicated they believed that the contributions ensure the legal ease of adoption of the project results.
To gain insight into the impact of projects on EU Safety Regulations, the project coordinators were asked whether they expected the results of their project to contribute to the development, revision and/or improvement of any Safety Regulations. A positive answer was given by 40% of coordinators, with an expected contribution to EU regulations, global regulations, or both.

There is still room for improvement when it comes to the cooperation with research in the area of regulation and certification. It is important to better comprehend the whole landscape of safety activities but also to improve the regulation development process. Projects do not always consider the mandatory changes in regulation their results may imply, because they focus on the development part and not so much on the implementation of their outcomes. There is a need for appropriate involvement of the regulator in the research to ensure the early identification of potential legal obstacles.

To conclude, safety research results are adopted more easily if they are linked to the improvement of EU safety standards and safety regulations. However, this requires the reduction of legal barriers through evolution of the legal regulatory framework, more cooperation between the research community and the regulator from an early start onwards, and coordination between the research community and policy makers, during the project as well as after project completion.

The overall picture is positive. Much of the research assessed over the past four years is on the right track towards the goals of Flightpath 2050, satisfying the Enablers and their constituent Capabilities. Given that it is currently 2017, and that the roadmap is for 2050, this is a distinctly positive result. Of course, some Enablers are better served than others. Two that are doing particularly well, for example, are System-wide safety management, and Human-centred automation, whereas Passenger management has the least coverage, and other Enablers fall somewhere in between. As an overall observation, however, the OPTICS assessment process has to an extent ‘validated’ the ACARE SRIA roadmap, and has helped in the development of the updated SRIA released in July 2017.

Yet doing the right research does not automatically guarantee that such knowledge is translated into solid steps towards achieving the goals of Flightpath 2050. In particular, there are two blocking points. The first is that some of the promising research does not seem to be picked up by industry, or used to inform safety policy or rule-making. The second point is that some research seems to get ‘stuck in the middle’ in terms of remaining at a medium maturity level, and thus never reaching the point at which it can help industry or inform policy or rules. To make a simple analogy, there is some good cooking going on in the safety research ‘kitchen’, but sometimes it never seems to come out of the oven, while at other times well-prepared meals make it out of the kitchen into the restaurant, but there is nobody sitting down to eat them. This means that the ‘business model’ of aviation safety research is not as efficient and effective as it could be. This was reinforced by the findings of the international review, where for example US aviation research seemed to be more clearly focused and harnessed by industry. Europe needs to consider how to tighten up its act, so that good safety research is not ignored, and research results progress to TRL6 whereupon industry can properly decide if and how to use them.

As well as the formal assessments of projects, the four workshops – on Human Factors, data-sharing, UAS and autonomy, collaborative safety management, and resilience and survivability – were extremely productive in terms of generating priority research directions for aviation safety (this is important since the SRIA Enablers are not themselves prioritised). An early concern that such workshops might be fruitless, due to experts disagreeing, was quickly disproven. Each workshop resulted in a strong consensus on the top 3 and top 10 research priorities in each of the chosen safety areas. Perhaps more importantly, the workshops showed that there is a strong safety community spirit in Europe, and that there need to be forums such as those provided by OPTICS, to allow more collaborative discussion and planning on safety enhancement. The ideas, and the passion for safety, were palpable in all of the OPTICS workshops and dissemination events. All that is needed is to bring the right people and stakeholders to a common table.

The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) part of OPTICS began in earnest in the second half of OPTICS, and is the first analysis of its kind. It has shown that Europe has a significant aviation safety research capability, and can be a world leader in this domain. It has also suggested that there needs to be a balance between large institutional programmes such as SESAR and Clean Sky, which are excellent for ensuring that research is implemented, and smaller FP7 and H2020-type projects, where most creativity and innovation happens.

Of the range of questions the SEIA posed, the most interesting one concerns whether safety research is addressing today’s key risks. The research coverage of top risks seems to be uneven and it is questionable if sufficient resources are dedicated to the resolution of current known safety deficiencies. This question was discussed in the final dissemination event, and it became clear that this would be a way to help focus research and ensure that potentially good research is picked up, or new research launched where there are gaps or bottlenecks relating to key risk areas. This could therefore help our ‘business model’ become more strategic, which would in turn ensure that European aviation continues to retain its hard-won safety record.
At the final dissemination event, several presenters raised the possibility that aviation safety has reached a plateau, whereby it is hard to further increase safety. Other experts noted that with all the ongoing changes in the industry, and with new emerging risks arising, aviation will be sufficiently challenged just to remain on this plateau. Nevertheless, it was suggested that aviation should take a look outside its own borders to other industries, to see if there are safety lessons that could be translated into the aviation domain.

In conclusion, the OPTICS review has shown that Europe has a strong aviation safety research capability, and that there is widespread commitment to safety – a passion for safety – across the industry. There is, however, room for improvement, and there are significant challenges facing aviation in the near and medium term. It is hoped that the recommendations and the insights in this report and supporting documents, will help to ensure that Europe remains a leader both in aviation safety, and in aviation safety research.

There are numerous recommendations arising from the OPTICS work, including those from the four workshops, as well as clear needs for new research and reduction of bottlenecks arising from the analysis of projects against Enablers.
But at a high level, the recommendations on the following page stand out as being of a more strategic nature:

There is an urgent need for research into the integration of RPAS, drones and personal vehicles into shared airspace.
One of the largest bottlenecks to safety advancement is data sharing. Means need to be found whereby the truly useful data can be shared and analysed without affecting the reputations and competitiveness of individual organisations.
Research needs to deliver better predictive tools and look-ahead time, whether via on-board sensors, or via satellite or ground-based systems to warn of system-degrading situations, from adverse weather to pilot fatigue.
More research needs to be carried out on the ‘post-event’ situation, including a ‘return home’ capability for aircraft, and increased crash survivability (especially rotorcraft).
Human Factors needs to be seen less as an add-on when needed due to technological change, and more as an integral part of the aviation business, fully integrated into design and operational processes. In particular human centred automation research results need to be harvested and translated into industrial benefits.
Aviation safety research needs to look outside its own borders for new ways to increase safety, whether to road safety for ideas on survivability, or to nuclear power to develop better ‘barrier’ approaches at the system concept and design stages.
Collaborative safety is the way forward for European aviation, but it needs research to develop robust governance approaches that will maintain a strong safety culture and achieve effective business outcomes, given the existing and upcoming challenges such as new business models (e.g. low cost), disruptive technologies, and major new partners (such as Amazon and Google).
The European aviation safety research capability is strong, but the research-to-industry ‘business model’ warrants improvement. Better ways to connect the research community to industry, and to increase industry uptake of potential safety advances, need to be found.
The European aviation safety research landscape needs to be more strategically organised, and linked to key risk areas (current and future), most probably steered by a stakeholder group representing the key components of the industry, including not only manufacturers and operators (airlines, ANSPs, airports, etc.), but also those at the sharp end (pilots, controllers, and passengers).
Whilst aviation safety may have reached a plateau, security certainly has not, and the threat levels are significant in many parts of Europe.

Lastly,urgent research is needed on how safety and security can aid each other, and it is recommended that any future OPTICS-type project should consider security research as well as safety.

Potential Impact:
OPTICS is a CSA, and therefore its impact is different from a normal research project. It has three target audiences: research funding agencies, researchers and industry.

For agencies such as the European Commission, OPTICS is like a mirror, so that the EC can judge whether its money is being well-spent in aviation research. The overall answer is 'yes', though there is room for improvement, for example as seen via the benchmarking comparison with the US.

Researchers have found the OPTICS expert workshops and dissemination events to be of high value, since they bring together experts working on similar issues. many experts have stated that the most useful aspect of OPTICS has been the public events, since there are no equivalent forums. The dissemination events are also seen as useful, bringing researchers into contact with industry and the Commission.

Industry have similarly found the OPTICS events most useful, since they can gain insight into the latest research avenues and their likelihood of success.

One of the undoubted impacts of OPTICS is that it has given a comprehensive and methodical answer to an apparently simple question - are we doing the right research? - in a very complex context, and has highlighted where we are doing well, and where there are gaps. It has brought the ACARE SRIA to life as a roadmap, and allowed everyone to see how their work contributes to the larger picture of aviation safety.

The final report released by OPTICS is of high quality, readable by anyone inside or outside the industry, and it has already been disseminated to the entire ACARE membership, and presented to ACARE WG4 (Safety & Security) as well as at the annual EASN conference (Warsaw, September 2017).
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