Single European Sky ATM Research

Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) is a collaborative project to completely overhaul European airspace and its air traffic management (ATM). The actual programme is managed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking as a public–private partnership (PPP).

In the 20th century, unlike United States, Europe did not have a single civilian airspace — i.e., one in which air navigation is managed at the European level. Furthermore, European airspace is among the busiest in the world with over 33,000 flights daily and airport density in Europe is very high. This makes air traffic control more complex. The EU Single European Sky (SES) legislature was drawn to overcome the air control management's fragmentation and flight capacity limitation by structuring airspace and air navigation services at a pan-European level. To develop the needed technological capacity, the SESAR programme was initiated in 2004 as a continuation of a smaller effort by Eurocontrol, SESAME-project. In June 2010, European and American authorities reached a preliminary agreement on interoperability between their future air traffic management systems, SESAR and NextGen.

The SESAR project is composed of three phases:

  • A Definition phase (2004–2008), to deliver an ATM master plan defining the content, the development and deployment plans of the next generation of ATM systems. This definition phase is led by Eurocontrol, and co-funded by the European Commission under the Trans-European Transport Networks programme and executed by a large consortium of all air transport stakeholders.
  • A Development phase (2008–2013), to produce the required new generation of technological systems and components as defined in the definition phase. This phase (budget: 2.1 billion euro) is managed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking.
  • A Deployment phase (2014–2020), for a large-scale production and implementation of the new air traffic management infrastructure, composed of fully harmonised and interoperable components which guarantee high performance air transport activities in Europe.

SESAR’s target concept relies on a number of new key features:

  • The network operation plan, a dynamic rolling plan for continuous operations that ensures a common view of the network situation;
  • Full integration of airport operations as part of ATM and the planning process;
  • Trajectory management, reducing the constraints of airspace organisation to a minimum;
  • New aircraft separation modes, allowing increased safety, capacity and efficiency;
  • System-wide information management (SWIM), securely connecting all the ATM stakeholders which will share the same data;
  • Humans as the central decision-makers: controllers and pilots will be assisted by new automated functions to ease their workload and handle complex decision-making processes.

The SESAR project has a parallel in the NextGen project within the United States.

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