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Digital European Sky – the future of SES

The European Commission, together with the Finnish presidency organised a high-level conference to contribute to the growing momentum for reforming the Single European Sky and to consider the latest trends and developments in the context of ongoing and future digitalisation.

The high-level conference on the future of Single European Sky, organised by DG MOVE on 11-12 September in Brussels, started with an opening ceremony during which a joint stakeholder declaration was signed. As stated in the document, representatives of ATM stakeholders are aware that the ATM network in Europe has reached serious capacity problems and that there is an urgent need for reform, including both technological evolution and a simplified regulatory framework. The first panel of the whole-day conference on 12 September discussed the possibilities of creating a network-centric approach to overcoming the limits of the current ATM fragmentation. Panellists all agreed that instead of the current crisis management (in the context of short-term measures by the NM to minimise ATM delays), there is a need for structural change during which ANSPs should act with a proactive mindset to facilitate these changes and also co-ordinate future technological investments. Capacity shortage on the ground was addressed too, with ACI confirming that a change in operational culture is needed and therefore integrating airports into ATM system is one of its key priorities.

During the second panel, speakers shared their views about digitalisation being the solution to enhance capacity. SESAR JU stressed its goal to move forward with the implementation of new technology through large-scale demonstrators. Panellists agreed that one of the biggest challenges of future digitalisation might be data management and that any technological implementation should be preceded by careful safety assessment. The last session focussed on the human role in facilitating the transition to the new digital ATM environment. As was stated, change starts with proper training and whilst automation is the tool to improving the system, the human will always remain fundamental. One of the speakers reminded delegates that safety should focus on managing risks but should not be used as an excuse to resist change. As stressed during the closing remarks, now that the limits of current capacity have been reached and there is a growing climate emergency, it is the right opportunity to push forward reforms if the political will can be also gained. Further information on the conference, including the transition plan on future architecture of the European airspace and an information paper on legal and economic aspects of ATM data service provision, can be found here.