WANTED: Airspace Guardian of the Future

Written by: James Hanson
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Posted under: White papers

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).

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.

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