Preparing the ground for safe and efficient higher airspace operations in Europe

Nov. 13, 2020

SESAR partners have started work on a comprehensive demand analysis and concept of operations for higher airspace, with the objective of allowing safe, efficient and scalable operations above the flight levels where conventional air traffic operates. The European concept for higher airspace operations (ECHO) is a two-year SESAR 2020 project, comprising representatives from partners Airbus UTM (Airbus Operations SL), CIRA, DASSAULT AVIATION, the DLR, the DSNA, ENAC (Italian NAA), ENAV, EUROCONTROL, ONERA and THALES Alenia Space.

New airspace users and operations are increasingly emerging in this higher airspace. There is a broad diversity of vehicles, ranging from unmanned balloons, airships and solar planes capable of persistent flight, collectively known as high-altitude platform systems (HAPS) to supersonic and hypersonic aircraft, and trans-atmospheric and suborbital vehicles. Commercial and State space operations are also transiting through the higher airspace for launches and re-entries.

“Higher airspace operations represent a unique opportunity for innovation and the ECHO project will help unleash the great potential of this new frontier for flight. I am delighted to be in charge of the coordination in the ECHO consortium, which comprises the leading European industry, organisations, institutes and research centres dealing with higher airspace operations”.

Henk Hof ECHO Project Manager, EUROCONTROL

Funded within the framework of Horizon 2020 (grant agreement No 890417), the work of ECHO on the future definition of a European concept of operations for higher airspace will feed into the ICAO global framework, ensuring a global harmonised approach for higher airspace operations. It will also constitute the foundation and the starting point for the development of the future European higher airspace operation regulatory framework by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

higher airspace