All part of the SESAR family

Mar. 27, 2017

How can Europe safely and efficiently integrate air vehicles, including remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or drones, into the crowded airspace? This was the core challenge put to speakers by Robin Garrity, SESAR JU, in the panel, ‘Integration of all vehicles’, on day two of the 2017 World ATM Congress in Madrid, which focused on operational aspects, challenges and the all-inclusive nature of current SESAR R&D programming.  

Important leg work has been carried out under SESAR 1 and SESAR 2020 now considers all airborne vehicles – both large and small – as part of a more inclusive “family”, according to Matthew Baldwin of the European Commission’s DG MOVE. This sees SES and SESAR becoming even bolder, he said, as it widens its scope to include all airspace users, and creates successful synergies for the entire community, including SMEs and niche players.

Jean-Philippe Ramu of NetJets set the scene with an account of the market size, volume of business and general economic significance of Europe’s business or “taxi” aviation sector. Demonstrations, as part of the SES Award-winning RISE project, show there are mutual benefits – fuel saving, safety, scheduling – of enhanced cooperation between instrument flight rules (IFR) and visual flight rules (VFR) traffic in uncontrolled airspaces. He also said smaller business aircraft are vulnerable to wake vortex and was interested in what SESAR could do to help them around large airports, especially at the altitudes they are required to operate which include uncontrolled space.

Isabel del Pozo de Poza of the European Helicopter Association gave voice to the rotorcraft sector. She outlined the sector’s market scale (€7.535 million global turnover, employing 35,000), types of craft and applications (search-rescue, fire, air taxi, etc.), operational needs (including access to busy airports), challenges and expectations of SESAR 2020. Rotorcraft were represented in SESAR 1 P04.10 and PROuD projects, and she looks forward to deeper involvement in SESAR 2020 as an equal player in future European ATM developments and Master Plan revisions.

Juan Ignacio Del Valle of the European Defence Agency discussed the nature of RPAS in military and non-military contexts, including both segregated and non-segregated airspace. The goal, he said, is to find solutions for safely integrating IFR RPAS into general air traffic. Barriers include ill-adapted ATM operations and regulatory frameworks, but also immature technologies. But the good news, he said, is that things are getting better thanks to strong cooperation between EDA and the SESAR JU in defining new R&D priorities and contributions to the ATM Master Plan.

Speaking from the general aviation perspective, John Korna of NATS said pilots typically overestimate their ability to spot other aircraft in the sky and demonstrated this with a photo of a light aircraft barely visible on the horizon. SESAR 2020 could, he said, help develop seamless, transparent interoperability between existing and emerging airspace users, commercial aircraft, and ground services in ATM space. He is keen for a workable solution to balance the technology, regulation, standards and costs so that general aviation operators are willing to invest in “good enough” avionics.

Marc Kegelaers of Unifly gave some context to the panel, as the “new kid on the block”, by showing the challenges of integrating typically untrained airspace users. He described his firm’s use of EAD data to help professional drone pilots monitor the airspace they use, and showed the simplicity of an app-based system for amateur pilots that does everything from looking at traffic to getting flight permissions based on geo-location technology.

Matthew Baldwin reminded delegates that they can explore this topic in more detail at an upcoming SESAR event in The Hague, on 20 April, which includes a dedicated U-Space Workshop.

U-Space is an innovative Commission-led initiative aimed at establishing the overall framework to support efficient safe secure operations of drones while ensuring environment and privacy protection. This is one of several pillars introduced last November by Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, paving the way for an “EU drone ecosystem”.