The aviation sector has been hardly affected since the COVID-19 crisis started 1 year ago. European traffic has fallen by 69.9% in 2020 according to IATA. It is not only the airline companies that are impacted but also the whole sector that is facing an unprecedented crisis. The closure of borders and lockdown have been slowing down the traffic recovery of which should reach its pre-crisis level COVID-19 in 2025.

Digitalisation and agility are the keys to a resilient ATM system

This brutal slowdown in air traffic nevertheless enhance sector restructuring, new opportunities and launch of new digitalisation projects. The ATM system is being redesigned to become more resilient and flexible in order to anticipate traffic fluctuations. Digitalisation is now vital because it contributes to improving the system, anticipation and the resilience of the players

Generally, ATM world is criticized for its slow change capability. The crisis has finally shown that the actors are able to quickly adapt themselves and to propose new measures and ways of working ensuring safety for all. Agility is also a key ability to cope with similar crises. All stakeholders need to coordinate to propose a quick reactive system and new business models according to external circumstances and new ways of working to prepare the future.

The ability to innovate is now a major asset to face with the changes that may occur. There is no shortage of innovative projects in the field of aviation and they are encouraged by the various institutions in the sector such as SESAR JU, EUROCONTROL and the European Commission. The major subjects under development are about the Remote Tower, Virtual Centre, Green Aviation, and ADSP. The integration of new technologies is accelerating more and more, especially in the field of data, cloud and AI.

This resilience and flexibility of the system can only be achieved through knowledge sharing and strong partnerships. Of course, each player can bring its own key competence, but at the same time, it is only by coupling and combining the skills of each that the entire system will be able to reinvent itself. This is what CCS is doing. With its three strategic partners – skyguide, ENAV and DSNA – CCS is now able to offer flexible and innovative services for ANSPs, while complying with SWIM standards.

The ATM ecosystem needs to learn the lessons of this crisis in order to better rebuild itself and finally offer a flexible and resilient system, particularly thanks to collaborative efforts. The road to recovery will not be easy, but the players in the field must seize the opportunity to modernise themselves thanks to new technologies while keeping safety and the reduction of CO2 emissions as a key objective. COVID 19 is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.