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ECHO project led by EUROCONTROL successfully delivers a ConOps for higher airspace operations

aircraft

Higher airspace operations pose a huge challenge for airspace management – challenges addressed head on in the new ConOps (concept of operations) for higher airspace that has been delivered by SESAR 3JU project ECHO, which was led by EUROCONTROL.

Traditionally reserved for space rockets and military planes, higher airspace is now accommodating a wide range of new airspace entrants operating at flight levels well above the level of today’s conventional aircraft operations. These range from long-endurance balloons to slow-moving high-altitude platform systems or suborbital hypersonic vehicles – all of which present an extremely diverse set of operating characteristics.

The ECHO ConOps defines a harmonised approach to airspace operations in airspace above approximately 60,000 ft. It sets out clearly the future roles, procedures, and infrastructure required to meet growing demand, and covers the varying needs of low to high-speed vehicles as well as space missions, with preflight strategic deconfliction to ensure safe operations and trajectory separation.

"This project has helped Europe to develop a clear position on this issue and a shared understanding of future higher airspace demand. This will feed into work about to start within ICAO on higher airspace operations, and will help to ensure a global harmonised approach where needed that provides the basis for developing robust traffic management solutions."

Henk Hof ECHO project coordinator EUROCONTROL

A follow-up project within the Digital European Sky programme has been established to build on these results, allowing the ConOps - with its concept elements and operational requirements - to be validated on an incremental and continuous basis.

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