WANTED: Airspace guardian of the future…

holding a glowing earth globe in his hands

As Egis celebrates 50 years in aviation, we publish a new discussion paper imagining the long-term future of aviation and what relevance air traffic management might have within it.

At times, it can feel like aviation is a slow-moving industry. But we’ve come a long way since the first powered flight in 1903. Consumerism, globalisation and advances in technology have all contributed to an industry now enjoyed by almost 12 million fliers on any given day.

If anything, the pace of change is increasing. Fifty years ago, in 1969, we were landing on the moon using a guidance computer with less processing power than a modern pocket calculator (and by comparison an iPhone 6 is 120 million times faster than the computer that powered Apollo 11).

For aviation, 1969 was an especially auspicious year. It was the year that the French Minister of Transport and the German Minister of Economic Affairs signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show for the joint development of the A300 aircraft, thus beginning a company called “Airbus”. It was also the year that Egis began its aviation journey, with the birth of Sofreavia, a French company specialising in the commissioning of aeronautical infrastructure, which later joined the Egis family.

Imagining the future

With so much change in the last half century, what metamorphosis can we expect to see in the next? Using scenario planning techniques, this discussion paper looks at how such metamorphosis would change the way air traffic is managed and who would be responsible for managing it. In other words: what will our future guardian of the airspace look like?

Our view is as much a philosophical one as it is an attempt to predict future technological or societal advances. Most forward visioning exercises tend to restrict themselves to 20 years ahead. In looking beyond that, this is more ambitious, but also more fanciful, since there are so many more unknowns. Nevertheless, there is value in considering the possible paths that lay before us and their implications for aviation and Air Traffic Management (ATM) in particular.

The thinking behind this document builds on the wider work of Egis in advancing sustainability and mobility in the ‘smart’ built environment. It also reflects our aviation work with regulators, airports and service providers in recent months, supporting them with their own future visioning and innovation planning.

Airspace guardian

In each of the future scenarios we describe there will be a need for an airspace guardian to manage air traffic. But if the Air Navigations Service Providers (ANSPs) of today want such a role, they will have to adapt. They must anticipate change, avoiding the business paralysis and failure to adapt that blighted companies like Kodak, Nokia, BlackBerry or Xerox. To avoid such a fate, ANSPs should think about the actions needed in the next decade or so to remain relevant – not only for what may lie around the corner but for the long-term too. Please join us, for some crystal ball gazing into the role of the future airspace guardian and the different realities that we may face.

Author: James Hanson, Director of Strategy, Egis

James is strategy Director for all of Egis’ work in aviation. In addition, he also advises ATM stakeholders, in particular air navigation service providers. His work focuses on delivering improvements in ATM through technical, strategic and regulatory support to service providers, industry suppliers and investors. James’ expertise includes the deployment of innovative new technologies including remote/digital towers and space-based ADS-B. His industry knowledge has led to him advising governments, institutions and private sector clients looking to provide services and investment into the ATM sector. This work has included market liberalisation studies, competition analysis, due diligence, and commercial strategy development.

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