Why SESAR innovation is key to building back better

We need to accelerate collaboration on innovation and the Digital European Sky if we want smarter and more sustainable aviation, say stakeholders Olivier Jankovec,
ACI EUROPE (Airports Council International), Thomas Reynaert, Airlines for Europe (A4E) Tanja Grobotek, Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Europe.
Source: SESAR JU

By Olivier Jankovec (ACI EUROPE), Thomas Reynaert (A4E) and Tanja Grobotek (CANSO Europe)

Olivier Jankovec is Director General of ACI EUROPE, Thomas Reynaert is Managing Director of Airlines for Europe (A4E) and Tanja Grobotek is Director for European affairs at the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Europe.

02 Mar 2021

HOW CAN AIRPORTS LEVERAGE INNOVATION TO SUPPORT THEIR RECOVERY?

Getting on a path to recovery is urgent for aviation - and for Europe. This is not purely about restarting travel in the short term, critical though this is. COVID-19 is accelerating a societal shift towards sustainability and shining a spotlight on the growth-driven business model of aviation and airports. Going forward, airports are reinventing themselves, becoming more resilient, “hyper” efficient, connected and sustainable in the long term, to the benefit of our passengers, the communities we serve and our industry stakeholders alike. This is where the work of the SESAR JU and its vision for a Digital European Sky play an important role. Together we can leverage technology and bring to market solutions like the airport operations centre (APOC) to improve data sharing between airports, airlines, air traffic control and ground handlers, as well as other modes of transport, in order to offer a seamless multimodal passenger experience, door-to-door.

WHO STANDS TO BENEFIT?

Airports of all sizes have been hit hard – as they had to keep their core facilities up and running for next to no traffic – and thus next to no revenues. Looking ahead, while the recovery will be challenging for all, smaller and regional airports are going to be particularly vulnerable in the post COVID-19 new market reality. These airports can use this as an opportunity to build their resilience at an affordable price in the long term. Given the social and economic importance of these airports for their surrounding communities, it will be critical to ensure their sustainability. Here SESAR is delivering solutions like satellite-based navigation technologies, digital towers and low-cost surface surveillance systems, to provide airports with the means to improve accessibility and increase their resilience at a fraction of the cost.

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE (Airports Council International)


 

DOES SESAR INNOVATION HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY IN SUPPORTING AVIATION’S GREEN RECOVERY?

Passenger traffic has collapsed, affecting tens of thousands of jobs and livelihoods. In parallel, the threat of climate change and the need to speed up aviation’s decarbonisation efforts has never been more urgent – both for our planet and for aviation’s future. It is clear that this will be the defining issue for our generation – long after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. As shown in our Destination 2050 roadmap, there is no one silver bullet to decarbonise the skies. Multiple technology pathways are required, one of which is the digital transformation of air traffic management, where SESAR innovations come into play. We need to move forward with SESAR solutions to modernise ground systems - matching ground and aircraft capabilities will allow planes to fly the most fuel-efficient routings possible. The benefits of these innovations will remain when sustainable aviation fuels, or new propulsion systems take the helm.

WHERE ELSE CAN INNOVATION PLAY A ROLE?

Our skies are clearly evolving. The pandemic has brought into focus the importance of air freight for transporting critical supplies. More innovation will be needed to digitalise operations to ensure scalability and resilience to unexpected disruptions. We are also seeing the emergence of new types of air vehicles, seeking access to the airspace to provide new services and businesses to society. The integration of these vehicles will place additional pressure on the existing aviation system. The concepts and services being developed today within the framework of SESAR are establishing some of the key building blocks for the management of airspace and ensuring safety and efficiency at all times.

Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director, Airlines for Europe (A4E)


WHY SHOULD INVESTING IN SESAR INNOVATION REMAIN A PRIORITY FOR EUROPE?

The digital transformation of aviation is a pathway to build a smarter and more sustainable aviation system for the generations to come. Throughout the pandemic, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have ensured the continuity of their services, enabling the transport of essential supplies and passengers. They need to continue to invest so they can deliver capacity when traffic returns. However, they have experienced a dramatic drop in revenues and demand due to the fall in traffic, and the recovery remains slow and uneven. That is why our member ANSPs are working tirelessly through the SESAR JU to advance technologies that will make the system more scalable, greener, predictable, and resilient to disruptions like the pandemic in the future, as well as facilitate the safe integration of all new airborne vehicles, including drones, supersonic aircraft, space vehicles and more.

WHY IS COLLABORATION SO CRITICAL AT A TIME LIKE THIS?

The reduced liquidity of the sector makes collaboration and the need to align our future investments more important than ever. That calls for sensible but hard-nosed prioritisation, between stakeholders across the entire aviation value chain. It is only by working together that we will be able to deliver a system that is more scalable, economically sustainable, environmentally efficient, and resilient in the long run. The development of new technologies can act as a focal point for collaboration, allowing ANSPs to share expertise and perhaps even cost. The pandemic has created industry-wide challenges, and we can only overcome these together.

Tanja Grobotek, Director for European Affairs, Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Europe


Brought to you by SESAR Joint Undertaking and the Digital European Sky
The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) is a European public-private partnership bringing together all actors in the aviation value chain to research and develop innovative technologies to make air traffic management smarter and more sustainable (Digital European Sky).

For more information visit: www.sesarju.eu/digitalsky

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