During the last edition of Amsterdam Drone Week, Simon Hocquard, Director General at CANSO, launched the idea for a Global Council to create a common vision for future airspace. Last month, representatives from air navigation service providers (ANSPs), UTM service providers, aircraft manufacturers, drone operators and manufacturers, high-tech companies, airlines, airports, regulatory authorities, space agencies and research bodies met digitally for the first time. Hocquard explains what has already been achieved in a short time and what the next steps are.
“Seeing all those familiar faces from our industry together on one big screen was wonderful to see,” says Hocquard. “Especially considering that when I announced this initiative in December 2020, I didn't know whether there was any interest in it and how we should organize it. It was a bold move, but we knew it was the right thing to do.”
Because what Hoquard observed until then was that there were lots of different players across the whole spectrum, all working on their own individual visions on how to safely integrate all the different airspace users into the skies. “We realised that creating those visions in isolation was not efficient and even possibly dangerous. There was a real need for collaboration and an opportunity to bring together all the great work that had been done so far, across the domains, to create an aligned vision.”
So in March Hocquard invited more than 20 organisations from around the globe for what was named the Complete Air Traffic System (CATS) Global Council. And with success. “We had an excellent discussion about laying the foundation on how we will work together as a Council and agreeing what the outcome of our work will be. Which is a blueprint for our future skies. We set ourselves a pretty ambitious goal of creating that vision by this September.”
Despite the short time and the high ambition, Hocquard thinks it is possible to have the foundation ready in September. “All of the aviation community is aiming for the same thing. And that is to maximise the use of our airspace to whoever wants to use it, in the most efficient and safest way possible. And as soon as you say that out loud, there can’t be many different ways of doing just that. Moreover, everyone is committed and we have already managed to expand the Council to 30 participating organizations since the first meeting.”
Hocquard is convinced that - even with the admission of new air users such as air taxis, delivery drones, cargo and space flights - air transportation can remain as safe as it is today. “One of the fundamental building blocks for our blueprint is that we maintain or even better the high levels of safety. Going together as a Council, bringing all those different parties together, is a phenomenal opportunity to learn from each other. We can draw upon the decades of safety expertise from the aviation industry, but we can also draw upon all that innovation and the innovative spirit from the unmanned industry that hasn’t got that legacy history and are asking new questions and thinking about new ways of doing things. Combining those two brings potential magic.”
Although the global pandemic has hit aviation hard, Hocquard also sees opportunities. “We will have to do things differently in the future and we now have to tackle that possibility with both hands. I'm sure we'll beat the Covid-19 virus, but we'll also have to adapt. And that has consequences for how we manage the airspace. Integrating new airspace users, and therefore services, into our skies presents an opportunity to accelerate change and do things differently. ‘How do we harness this power of automation?’, ‘How do we harness this artificial intelligence or digitalisation to improve the way airspace is managed?’
The decision to establish a Global Council is because I strongly believe that we can forge a more adaptable, resilient and sustainable industry. And I believe this can only be achieved by cooperation and strong leadership. Because no single organization has all the answers. Bringing all the different perspectives and expertise together is absolutely essential. If we don’t work together it will be very difficult and painful for all of us.”
Although the Global Council already has 30 participants, Hocquard does not want to limit the initiative to the aviation industry alone in the future. In the long term it cannot do without other sectors. “Aviation is not unique. We should definitely plan to engage with other industries. Telecoms for example, as their networks already interconnect the variety of aircraft and ground base computers and a reliable and secure communication will be even more essential to ensure global harmonisation. But also space-based technology or industries that transfer data around the world highly securely and very fast and accurate. That's what we need. But it goes even wider: we should also start talking to the town planners, the designers and architects who create big urban designs. Because we have to look up as well as out on the ground. It just ripples out. And if we don’t include those at a later stage to test and validate and improve then it's an opportunity lost.”
Amsterdam Drone Week 2021
First upcoming event is the ADW Industry Update on 1 July 2021. The main theme of this event is Urban Air Mobility and the role of cities. We will further discuss the integration of future skies with Alex Sinclair, CTO GSMA and Simon Hocquard, Director General CANSO. For more information visit: www.amsterdamdroneweek.com.