ATCA Annual continues

ATCA Annual day two continued with an opening fireside chat with FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. Looking ahead at key topics for the upcoming year he highlighted the beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). Building on the success with remote ID, the next step is to address flight of unmanned aircraft out of the line of sight of the controlling pilot. The work of this committee is defined by the FAA as follows:

The UAS BVLOS ARC will provide recommendations to the FAA for performance-based regulatory requirements to normalize safe, scalable, economically viable, and environmentally advantageous UAS BVLOS operations that are not under positive air traffic control (ATC). This ARC will take a holistic approach in recommending a performancebased, technology agnostic regulatory framework for BVLOS operations.

In addition to this very important topic, he addressed cyber security. The Aviation Cyber Initiative (ACI) is a joint program including the FAA, Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The stated goal of the initiative is to reduce cybersecurity risks and improve cyber resilience to support safe, secure, and efficient operations of the Nation's Aviation Ecosystem. In the words of Steve Dickson, “Cyber is like safety, you’re never finished and it’s a team sport.” I really like this analogy.

A final thought was related to increasing cooperation and collaboration at a global level in aviation. ANSPs, airports and airlines all working together to eliminate fragmentation of priorities and programs. ICAO is taking a leading in moving these discussions forward.

Looking ahead

This was a great segue into the first panel of the day focused on the future of aviation with participants from CANSO, NATCA, the FAA, the USAF and Kenya’s CAA.  The topics of the panel focused on new airspace users driving innovation and collaboration with five key principles – efficiency, sustainability, safety, scalability and resilience.

The discussion kicked off with the 2045 Vision launched by the Complete Air Traffic System (CATS) Global Council. This is a forum of industry bodies, working toward a shared blueprint and joint action to make sure that future skies are efficient, clean and safe and can generate global economic prosperity and social welfare. Airspace is a global shared resource inhabited by manned, unmanned and space vehicles. There needs to be an integrated and automated way to share real-time data.

The moderator asked the panel for one thing they believed would be the game changer for the future in our industry. The responses covered a wide range of topics:

- Digital technology to advance remote towers

- Ensuring a resilient ATM system by addressing cyber vulnerabilities related to ADS-B

- Remotely piloted aircraft

- Staff trained with new the expertise to safely integrate new airspace entrants

- Changing the mindset of our industry to accept digitisation in support of new airspace entrants.

Building on this last statement, technology can help with ensuring safety with new airspace entrants. As an industry we need to embrace the movement from analog to digital. “We share the same sky” and have an opportunity here like never before. This is all about leadership and working together.

An aviation ‘trust’ network is needed to support the security of our data. An interesting concept was presented that we need to think like the iPhone. Have one operating system that everyone uses, with automatic updates when flaws are identified, to keep everyone at the same level of protection. This would build trust across different functions and geographies. Maybe it’s not that easy, but this is an interesting thought.

Technology improves the efficiency of what we do, but there will always be a human in the lead for safety topics. Technology focuses on being reactive, where humans can be proactive. This led to the topic of artificial intelligence and it’s use in aviation. No one felt we will get to a place where AI can replace many of the human-led roles. But the reality is that AI already plays a role in many systems in order to make the human job easier. As systems become more complex and the amount of data grows even more, at some point there will need to be more technology in the mix.

Flying high

The last two panels focused on our changing airspace. Electric planes, commercial space travel and rocket cargo were a few of the topics discussed. During the last year there were 146 space launches globally with 56 coming from China and 51 from the US. Over the next few years this is expected to grow by 300% due to commercial space flights. Today NASA works with FAA for separation services. As the number of flights increases, there will need to be consideration of how this works in the future as the ATC tools don’t currently ‘manage’ these aircraft.

Cyber related to space was also raised. We have GPS because of satellites in space. If a global adversary wanted create a huge impact to another nation, they could block GPS. Think of the implications to our daily life of such an attack. As a result we need Defense in Space to be prepared for such possibilities and this is what the US Space Force Guardians are tasked with.

The day ended with a presentation from NASA about it's Sky For All program. Imagine a future….is the direction of this program. Integrated airspace available to all aircraft and users in a safe, affordable and sustainable way. A great thing to imagine…