Brussels, 03 Oct 2005
'It is clear that for the rapid growth in air travel to be safe, a drastic change in the way traffic is managed in the skies above Europe must take place,' said EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik on 29 September as he called for more investment in air traffic control technologies.
'More research investment in the future will give us the opportunity to leap forward in this critical area,' added the Commissioner.
With this in mind, Mr Potocnik met with senior officials from Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation. The Commission is proposing the allocation of funding under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for a Europe-wide air traffic management (ATM) system. The system would support the Commission's Single European Sky initiative.
The EU and Eurocontrol have a history of collaboration where research is concerned - some 80 per cent of current ATM research is funded through joint initiatives. However, as the Commission highlights, technology investment in this area has been stable since 1996 in spite of huge increases in air traffic volume over the last decade.
In FP6 the Commission set aside 150 million euro for ATM research. Current projects include OPTIMAL, in which researchers are developing innovative procedures for the safer approach and landing of aircraft in poor visibility conditions and in airports with limited capacity. Meanwhile the MA-AFAS project team is developing ways for aircraft to 'talk' to each other. This will make individual planes more autonomous and take some of the pressure off air traffic control systems.
The Commission's Single Sky initiative, intended to end the fragmentation in the current system, will however necessitate a fundamental change in Europe's ATM. Jacques Barrot, the EU's Commissioner for Transport, has therefore proposed the establishment of a new infrastructure: SESAME. The system would coordinate airspace users, operators and the supply industry while bringing together the regulatory framework, funding sources and implementing actors.
ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe proposed in its Strategic Research Agenda that SESAME's research component be supported under FP7.