The European Commission has launched a new call under the Connecting Europe Facility, containing provisions for a series of pilot SESAR JU Digital European Sky Demonstrators in the areas of green aviation and urban air mobility. The demonstrators are a key tool to support the SESAR JU’s vision of delivering the Digital European Sky, matching the ambitions of the ‘European Green Deal’ and the ‘Europe fit for the digital age’ initiatives. A total budget of EUR 60 million is earmarked for the demonstrators, which are expected to be launched in 2022 and to run until 2025.
The two SESAR-related topics covered by the call, “U-space and urban air mobility” and “Aviation Green Deal”, have been selected from among nine flagships outlined in the draft Digital European Sky Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA). Published in November 2021, the SRIA will serve as the basis for the work programme of the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, which is due to be established before the end of 2021.
The Digital Sky Demonstrators will take place in live operational environments and will put to the test (on a very large scale) the technological solutions necessary to deliver the Digital European Sky. The demonstrators are part of an innovation pipeline designed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking to bridge the gap between applied/industrial research and industrialisation, and to accelerate market uptake. Critical to their success will be the involvement of early movers, as well as a strong close connection with relevant standardisation and regulatory activities and bodies.
CEF SESAR call topics
• U-space and urban air mobility: to unlock the potential of the drone economy and enable urban air mobility (UAM) on a wide scale, a new air traffic management framework for low-altitude operations needs to be put in place. Known as U-space, the framework foresees a set of new services relying on a high level of digitalisation and automation of functions and specific procedures designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace for large numbers of drones. As such, U-space is an enabling framework designed to facilitate any kind of routine mission, in all classes of airspace and all types of environment – even the most congested – while addressing an appropriate interface with manned aviation and air traffic control. The maximum EU requested contribution per proposal is limited at EUR 7 million.
• Aviation Green Deal: The objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 set by the European Green Deal, in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement, requires accelerating the shift to smarter and more sustainable mobility. This implies the need for aviation to intensify its efforts to reduce emissions. To this end, a set of operational measures to improve the fuel efficiency of flights will have to be put in place with the aim of enabling aircraft to fly their optimum fuel-efficient 4D trajectory. At the same time, to ensure sustainable air traffic growth, it will be necessary to speed up the modernisation of the infrastructure in order to offer more capability and capacity, making it more resilient to future traffic demand and adaptable through more flexible air traffic management procedures. Furthermore, reducing the impact of aircraft noise and improving air quality will remain a priority around airports. The maximum EU requested contribution per proposal is limited at EUR 15 million.
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