Eduardo Santander

Eduardo García González, Senior Manager Future Skies at the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO). He reports on the need to work urgently towards the integration of ATM and AAM.

The aviation industry is on the brink of a monumental transformation, driven by the convergence of traditional air traffic management (ATM) and emerging advanced air mobility (AAM) technologies. As demand on airspace across the globe increases and new entrants revolutionise the way we approach transportation, there is an urgent need to work towards the integration of ATM and AAM, ultimately striving towards the creation of a unified sky vision for all stakeholders.

In response to these imperatives, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is spearheading efforts to update the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP), revise the Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (GATMOC) and establish a comprehensive framework for the integration of AAM into the existing aviation infrastructure.

ICAO's Advanced Air Mobility Study Group (AAM SG), established in 2023, is tasked with developing a global and holistic vision of the AAM ecosystem. This initiative underscores the importance of harmonising global efforts to accommodate the rapid evolution of aviation technologies and operational paradigms.

To support the ongoing efforts led by ICAO, the Complete Air Traffic System (CATS) Global Council, established by CANSO in 2021, is playing a crucial role in shaping this unified vision. This innovation forum – which includes more than 80 organisations from across the entire aviation ecosystem – is currently focused on characterising the fundamental transformations that the ATM industry needs to undergo in the coming years and decades and developing a pathway to AAM. These transformations are essential for ensuring the safety, efficiency and sustainability of air transportation in the face of increasing demand and technological advancements.

"In-time information sharing – the exchange of real-time, digital information between stakeholders – is essential for informed decision- making and effective airspace management."

By bringing together key stakeholders, including air navigation service providers (ANSPs), regulators, industry associations, technology providers and airlines, the CATS Global Council fosters collaboration and innovation to address complex challenges and drive positive change in ATM.

Some critical transformations are necessary for the future of air transport.

Adopting Trajectory-Based Operations (TBOs) – which represents a fundamental shift in the way airspace is managed and utilised – along with sharing trajectory information and implementing well-established policies for managing flight and flow information, will enable more optimal decisions and enhance operational efficiency.

In-time information sharing – the exchange of real-time, digital information between stakeholders – is essential for informed decision-making and effective airspace management. Technologies such as System Wide Information Management (SWIM) and flight information management (FF-ICE) facilitate in-time information sharing, enabling stakeholders to respond dynamically to changing conditions. Whether this involves large aircraft operations or new entrants, better information sharing allows more efficient upstream speed adjustments rather than holding in the terminal area, runway reassignment upstream rather than large vectors in the terminal area, or in-time availability for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) landing at a vertiport or pad versus holding.

Dynamic/flexible configuration and management of airspace – traditional airspace designs and management processes are being replaced by dynamic, flexible configurations that are adaptable to current operational needs. This transformation allows for the more efficient use of airspace and supports the integration of new entrants into the airspace system.

Advanced safety capabilities are essential to accommodating the increasing complexity and automation of aviation operations while maintaining or improving safety standards. In-time aviation safety management will continuously monitor, assess and identify mitigations across a broad set of systems, including those providing services to and within the aircraft systems.

Total system performance management will mean that as airspace operations become more complex and diverse, there will be a need to optimise total system performance across multiple dimensions, including safety, efficiency, flow management, noise and emissions. Automation algorithms and advanced technologies play a crucial role in managing total system performance under nominal conditions.

Modernising the regulatory framework and processes will be necessary. The pace of technological innovation necessitates a reform of the current regulatory framework and processes. Streamlined regulatory processes and flexible standards development are essential to support the rapid evolution of aviation technologies and operational procedures.

"The pace of technological innovation necessitates a reform of the current regulatory framework and processes."

Integrated/adaptive communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) will also be required. Integrated CNS capabilities are critical for enabling the safe and efficient operation of airspace systems. Adaptive communication, navigation and surveillance technologies support increased traffic volume and accommodate new entrants into the airspace.

Other transformations include: moving from Magnetic to a True North reference system; evolving/adaptive flight rules and airspace structures; an increased level of autonomy in air systems; a performance-based regulatory framework – towards full global harmonisation; enhanced separation management/ detect and avoid systems, and the development of a common altitude reference (barometric and geometric altimetry).

Each of these transformations will play a pivotal role in reshaping air transport, emphasising the need for comprehensive efforts. Collaboration, innovation and adaptability are paramount as we advance towards a unified sky vision. Additionally, it raises the question of what these ATM transformations will entail for AAM and how the vision for AAM aligns with these transformative changes.


Collaborating on our future skies 2024: transforming ATM and advancing Air Mobility (AAM)

On 17-18 January 2024, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and CANSO held the Collaborating on our Future Skies 2024: Transforming ATM and Advancing Air Mobility (AAM) event in Silicon Valley, bringing together Silicon Valley innovators and traditional airspace users and service providers to address some of the key questions and challenges we will face in our future. Discussions included the compatibility of visions for ATM and AAM, the development of a research roadmap and timeline that is aligned with industry needs, the evolution of airspace classification, high-level recommendations for future airspace functional architecture, and critical areas requiring further collaboration.

The event was supported by the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (SJU), the International Forum for Aviation Research (IFAR) and EUROCONTROL, elevating its status to a higher and more international scale.

The important discourse on ATM and AAM integration that started at this event will continue at the upcoming Airspace World event, to be held from 19 to 21 March 2024 in Geneva.

"Our journey towards a unified sky vision relies profoundly on collective commitment, driven by advancements in technology and a spirit of innovation."


Our journey towards a unified sky vision relies profoundly on collective commitment, driven by advancements in technology and a spirit of innovation. This collective commitment to shaping the future of aviation involves collaboration among industry leaders, regulatory authorities and stakeholders. The CATS Global Council plays a pivotal role in this endeavour, working closely with organisations such as ICAO and all stakeholders to forge a path towards a safer, more efficient and inclusive airspace system.

Through collaborative efforts and synergy across diverse sectors, we can harness the full potential of integrating ATM and AAM. By aligning our goals and strategies, we pave the way for a transformative era in aviation, one that promises to revolutionise the way we navigate the skies and unlock new opportunities for growth and development.

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