Brussels, 7 December. Artificial intelligence, higher airspace operations, and climate and weather modelling were just some of the research themes to be explored during the 10th SESAR Innovation Days (SIDs), which is taking place on 7-10 December as a virtual conference. Solutions stemming from this research have the potential to support a green and digital recovery for the aviation industry in the coming years, participants heard.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the SESAR Innovation Days, a flagship event in the aviation research calendar, is showcasing some of the breakthrough concepts from the SESAR Joint Undertaking’s exploratory research portfolio, as well as novel outcomes from the broader ATM research community.
Altogether, the conference features more than 30 posters and 30 papers, covering machine and deep learning techniques to optimise aviation’s network performance, data-driven traffic prediction, climate-optimised trajectories, behavioural economics, drone traffic management altitude zoning, and intermodality modelling, among other research topics.
The concepts presented reflect Europe’s vision to make its airspace the most efficient and environmentally friendly sky to fly in the world, and will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the aviation industry and its recovery from the COVID crisis.
“The crisis has severely hit Europe’s aviation industry, jeopardising millions of jobs and livelihoods. We do what is necessary to get the industry back on its feet as quickly as possible, but we must do it in a way that supports a sustainable and smart recovery, as well as strengthens the resilience of the sector,” says Henrik Hololei, Director General of the Directorate General for Transport and Mobility (DG MOVE), European Commission, and Chair of the SESAR JU Administrative Board. “We also need to think long-term by investing in innovation and research to allow us to go towards technologies that will give us a global competitive edge.”
“If the COVID19 crisis has shown us anything, it is that we can only deal with challenges if we innovate, think out of the box, take a risk and dream big,” said Eamonn Brennan, Director General, EUROCONTROL, and Vice-Chair of the SESAR JU Administrative Board. “The crisis of this past year gives us even more reason to look for innovative concepts and solutions to drive the digital transformation that will ensure we can build back better with a sustainable, resilient, and scalable ATM industry able to deliver the services needed for 21st century aviation.”
Thanks to the innovation pipeline established in the SESAR research and innovation programme (SESAR 2020), the most promising of the SESAR concepts presented at the SIDs will move into the next phase of research, industrial development, and eventually implementation. This factory-style approach has helped to significantly accelerate the pace of innovation in SESAR 2020.
“The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to move ahead with the digital transformation of air traffic management in Europe, to build greater resilience, scalability and sustainability into the system,” said Florian Guillermet, Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking. “This not only requires stakeholders to implement the new technologies that are already available, but also to continue to invest in the innovative concepts of the future. For this, the continuing engagement of the ATM research community is essential, harnessing the young talent and collaborations that we see every year at the SESAR Innovation Days. We have a chance to build back better – let’s take it!”
For its 10th edition, the SIDs joined forces with two other major aviation events: the ICAO Global Symposium on the Implementation of Innovation in Aviation and ATCA’s Annual Conference to host a joint panel on higher airspace operations –a new frontier for aviation. A concept of operations for this portion of airspace is currently under development in SESAR 2020 by partners in the ECHO project, which was presented during the panel.
Fittingly, the conference closed on 10 December with the SESAR Young Scientist Award ceremony in order to celebrate the next generation of aviation/ATM researchers.
 The ECHO consortium brings together the leading European industry, organisations, institutes and research centres dealing with on higher airspace operations. The partners are: Airbus UTM (Airbus Operations SL), CIRA, DASSAULT AVIATION, DLR, DSNA, ENAC (Italian NAA), ENAV, EUROCONTROL, ONERA and THALES Alenia Space. This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 890417.