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ERA addresses European Space Agency event

The European Space Agency (ESA) held a workshop on 18 May at its ESTEC facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands. The purpose of the event was to provide a platform for commercial space-based stakeholders to showcase their products under the umbrella of ‘Future downstream services: Digital Sky and beyond’.

The world of aviation is continuously changing. The coming years will be a critical period to pave the way for the digital transformation of aviation. Aviation’s infrastructure and ATM will have to adapt in order to cater for the growth in traffic and diversity of air vehicles in the sky, which are set to become more autonomous, more connected and more intelligent.

Initial analysis suggests that with a digitalised infrastructure, the industry could directly unlock around €10 billion per annum by 2035, which could be tripled by 2050 ( It is claimed that a digital infrastructure would make a significant contribution to citizens’ well-being, while strengthening security and fostering positive spill-over effects, such as saving time for travellers or reducing CO2 emissions.

The services relating to the transport of passengers and goods, their safety and security are evolving too. In the near future, passengers will not make choices primarily on their mobility needs; they expect to get from A to B, door to door seamlessly, safely and efficiently. These changes will offer the opportunity for development of new innovative services and applications capable to combine space with terrestrial assets (4G/5G, HAPs, UAV) to the benefit of stakeholders in the aviation sector as well as travellers.

One such technology that is being planned for deployment from space is ADS-B – currently mandated by the EC for airborne equipage by 7 June 2020. This surveillance technology is not being deployed with a complementing supported radar rationalisation or decommissioning plan, the establishment of a mature ground infrastructure nor assurances that some aircraft, particularly some regional types, will be offered exemptions or a transitional grace period on the basis of awkward avionic architecture and resultant retrofit capabilities. ERA’s Russell Dudley made an address at the beginning of the event to highlight the issues faced by airspace users and how importantly, the costs borne by our members in support of ATM modernisation through user charges should be recognised; a space-based solution may be very suitable however airspace users have no appetite to pay twice for the same service.