On the morning of March 8th 2023, delegates from over 120 countries streamed into Geneva's Palexpo Center for CANSO's inaugural Airspace World Conference. Bringing together some of the air traffic management (ATM) industry's leading players, a sense of excitement filled the air as industry professionals gathered to discuss key challenges facing ATM and explore emerging trends and technologies. I’m fairly new to Egis and coming from an artificial intelligence (AI) background with a focus on Natural Language Processing (NLP), ATM has always been fascinating, yet uncharted territory for me. I had the privilege of attending the Airspace World conference as part of an accelerated training initiative, designed to fully immerse me in the world of ATM, broaden my understanding and allow me to connect with customers.
Airspace World provided an invaluable platform for networking and connecting with industry professionals, presenting opportunities to engage with current and prospective clients. A recurring theme in these conversations was the resource constraints experienced by ANSPs. The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted the aviation industry, with ANSPs reducing capacity. However, with a V-shaped recovery in traffic levels instead of the expected U-shape, ANSPs are facing a dual challenge of balancing increased demand with limited resources while also addressing environmental concerns such as reducing carbon emissions and noise pollution. This situation has prompted them to carefully select projects to meet targets and milestones and to seek innovative ways to leverage technology and data for increased efficiency and cost reduction. Intrigued by the potential applications of AI in addressing these challenges, I immersed myself in various talks and presentations where I became increasingly aware of the complexity and scale of the issues facing the industry.
The aviation industry is inherently rich in data, but from what I heard, extracting valuable insights for optimizing existing processes has remained a persistent challenge. As the landscape gradually transforms, there is a growing emphasis on digitization and data-driven insights, something that Egis too is exploring. For instance, SESAR has been actively working on projects that harness data to develop new functionalities for more efficient climb and descent operations, as well as systems for monitoring and predicting natural hazards. The potential of AI and automation in augmenting data-driven services was brought to the forefront during the standout session "Aviation and Machine Learning," presented by experts from Raytheon and FlightAware. The session delved into the application of machine learning across various aspects of aviation, encompassing data quality, anomaly detection, contrail and offshore precipitation prediction, and modeling of aborted approaches. As I reflect on these developments, I eagerly look forward to the continued evolution and growth of this domain, as AI and other data-driven technologies transform the way we manage air traffic.
Environmental sustainability was a major topic at the conference, taking centre stage for the first time as the race towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions gathers pace. With over 30 talks dedicated to the topic, Egis's Gary Lloyd, Head of Sustainability, and Isabel Franke-Chaudet, Director at Egis UK, were also at the forefront of the discussion. Gary presented three key aspects for ANSPs, leading with improving ATM through better modelling, analysis, and airspace design involving performance measurement tools and tailored flight efficiency dashboards. Achieving net zero at ground level should be achievable by developing appropriate infrastructure, but he also proposed "beyond carbon" solutions for water, waste, biodiversity and the impacts of contrails, NOx and soot from aircraft. Isabel focused on how ANSPs don't have to trade off revenue for sustainability, co-presenting with skeyes on how environmental modulation of charges can respond to environmental challenges without impacting revenues. Both presentations were well attended and underscored sustainability's central role at Egis.