UK ANSP NATS plans full integration of all airspace users in ‘NATS OpenAir’ concept

UK air navigation service provider NATS proposes full integration of new airspace users by providing a foundation structure that makes air traffic services available for all users, says the company blog. The concept was launched today at the DroneX event in London. NATS is undertaking a comprehensive consultation with stakeholders from across the industry to help refine its NATS OpenAir concept.

NATS envisions a future where different types of aircraft can coexist seamlessly in a single unified airspace.  NATS OpenAir proposes to achieve that safely, sustainably and securely. The core idea is to extend NATS’ current services, leveraging automation and digitisation to provide vital data and network services to both existing and new airspace users.

Central to this vision is an underpinning aeronautical data exchange platform, that facilitates data sharing between operators within specific blocks of airspace.  This would support higher level services to existing and new airspace users by gathering, validating, integrating, and disseminating data from a wide range of sources, including NATS’ own surveillance infrastructure.  This would generate a consistent and assured picture of all planned activity in that airspace, which all users can rely on and use as a foundation for safe operations.

NATS OpenAir would extend existing, foundational aeronautical information services to include New Airspace Users.

Full integration of new airspace users, which is key to unlocking the benefits they bring, means all airspace users will have to be able to understand what’s happening in the skies around them, no matter what type of aircraft they’re flying or whether there’s a pilot on board.  This is a core principle of NATS OpenAir.

A new network management function would manage access to specific blocks of airspace, interface with emergency aircraft and provide safety data.  Importantly, we are not suggesting NATS OpenAir would provide air traffic services directly to new airspace users.  Rather it would become the foundation on which others – be it service providers or drone operators – can build new and thriving businesses, says NATS.

This two-pronged service framework would create an infrastructure that enables uncrewed aircraft to be integrated alongside the operations of commercial and general aviation, while maintaining today’s high safety standards.  It would also reduce barriers to entry, enabling innovation and competition across the rest of the industry.

This initial proposal outlines NATS’ vision. To gain industry input, NATS plans to conduct a comprehensive consultation on this proposal, inviting stakeholders from across the industry to help refine the concept further.

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