In January 2024, we interviewed our Director of Regulatory Affairs and Commercial Space, Juanjo Sola, on the importance of airspace modernisation. During his career, Juanjo has been the former head of the UAS Division for the Spanish CAA (AESA) and spent 4 years as AESA’s ATM/AIS Oversight Inspector and ATC Training Manager. He has specific training in Air Navigation, including ATC-related courses at EUROCONTROL, CAA and ANSP. He has worked as an Air Navigation Consultant for 4 years and is a user of the airspace as a trained aeroplane pilot.

What is Airspace Modernisation?

Airspace is a crucial part of the aviation ecosystem. Stakeholders, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), airspace users and local authorities, among others,  must work together with the Civil Aviation Authority to modernise airspace to keep up with the demand from airspace users and the technological advances within the industry.

Airspace modernisation aims to achieve efficient airspace management through established sustainable objectives obtained using updated and improved elements such as; implementing new air traffic management systems, communication technologies, navigation procedures and surveillance capabilities.

Some examples of updated and improved elements in airspace include the implementation of System Wide Information Management (SWIM), managing boundaries of the airspace and suborbital flights or the Artificial intelligence functionalities in ATM. 

Special attention should be paid to integrating new entrants such as Advanced Air Mobility, high-altitude platform systems (HAPS), and spacecraft. As the variety of users and applications increases, concepts like Advanced Flexible Use of Airspace (AFUA) become vital.

What are the benefits of Airspace Modernisation?

The main objective of Airspace Modernisation is to effectively manage user requirements while simultaneously facilitating the work of ANSPs with the overall aim of providing accommodation for new entrants.

This can have positive effects on the passenger and operator experience due to fewer delays and improved efficiency. Airspace modernisation can also reduce operational costs, fuel consumption, and emissions through flight path optimisation and more efficient air traffic management.

Why is an Airspace Modernisation Strategy Crucial to Governments and Civil Aviation Authorities?

The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and airspace modernisation is a crucial component in maintaining its safety, efficiency and sustainability.

Looking to the future of the aviation industry, we are seeing a demand for more flights with fewer delays and better connections. At the same time, users want to see lowered carbon emissions and more environmentally friendly solutions. Now, add the drone market and its increasing presence in aviation, and you can see that the need for airspace modernisation is at an all-time high. 

UK CAA’s public platform and PDF ‘ A guide to the Airspace Modernisation Strategy’.

**Source - UK CAA’s public platform and PDF ‘ A guide to the Airspace Modernisation Strategy’.

What are the Challenges in Developing an Airspace Modernisation Strategy?

Regulatory compliance is one of the biggest challenges for airspace modernisation, in particular, implementing significant changes to an airspace system that is already operating. It requires additional costs, investments, cultural changes, and training of pilots and Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs). 

ATM/ANS has been safely managed for decades based on solid rulesets and worldwide experience. Any changes to the core system call for deep regulatory analysis in order to transition into a more efficient model and maintain the same levels of safety. This process requires global harmonisation between international ATM/ANS systems to ensure that compliance and modernisation strategies align across all airspaces.

There are several big factors to consider for regulatory compliance of an Airspace Modernisation strategy, including safety, integrating new technology in the airspace through all layers of ATM/ANS data services, airspace design services and ATM network functions. 

Within these factors, for example,  cybersecurity measures must be taken, which need to be globally standardised to secure the operations. Then there are the environmental factors; any changes to the existing airspace must be aligned with the implemented regulations to reduce environmental impact in aviation. Finally, training and skill development must be thoroughly executed to ensure that all ATS personnel and crew members are properly trained and up to date with the new airspace processes. 

Overall, the transition to a more modern and efficient airspace should include a change management approach to take into account human factors such as how people engage, adopt and use the changes in their daily processes.

Murzilli Consulting's image of air traffic management from a control tower.

How Does Airspace Modernisation Contribute to Sustainable Aviation?

Airspace modernisation plays an important role in the aviation industry’s 2050 net-zero sustainability goal. There is a global scheme to offset emissions to ensure that the aviation industry’s emissions are aligned with the European Green Deal. Airspace modernisation helps to implement new technology to reduce aircraft emissions and other environmental effects. It’s crucial to align with the European Commission strategy, including the principles of the Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation (AZEA) declaration and the regulatory landscape for aircraft powered by hydrogen or electric propulsion.

How Can Murzilli Consulting’s Services Support Airspace Modernisation?

Murzilli Consulting’s team of digital aviation consultants are able to provide support services on airspace use, airspace management, traffic management, market research and airspace modernisation and implementation. Our end-to-end consultation services assist our customers in deploying new technology and operational improvements for airspace modernisation.

Murzilli Consulting, the outsourced regulatory department for the drone ecosystem's airspace consulting services.

Our airspace services typically cover four standard building phases and their associated services. However, we understand that there are potential use cases that may require additional services, which can be added during the initial consultation. 

The airspace studies, feasibility and use case definition phase combines market research and analyses to evaluate airspace and traffic management to optimise an airspace business strategy. This will provide a solid foundation for the implementation or modernisation of airspace services. Additionally, this will help utilise and monetise the airspace data. 

Air risk management for airspace ensures safe and efficient airspace risk management. This phase provides management support for the complexities of airspace safety and security with in-depth assessments and strategy developments.

The airspace modernisation and implementation phase assists with client liaisons between various networks and associations to provide the essential set-up and implementation of airspace environments such as U-Spaces and introduction to UAS within existing airspace. This can support in modernisation of airspace structures, use and management and coordination. This includes coordinating between civil and state operations.

The airspace technology implementation phase enables non-assured data to be used and connected with airspace data. This can be achieved through the evaluation and implementation of both traditional and innovative technologies. This includes providing a test environment prior to the implementation process to ensure a smooth transition into the existing data system.

Would you like to know more about our regulatory support services for airspace modernisation? Email me for more information, and I will be happy to answer any questions: