Their words, not mine. The closing session of the event was actually WTF 2020? Maybe not being used in the way you’re expecting, although we can all relate I think. A panel represented by ATCA, PReSafe Technologies, Raytheon, Thales and Palantir Technologies discussed the year that is coming to an end and the way forward.

The session was a round table discussion of WTFs. Each panelist offered different thoughts using this acronym. The first order of business was the top WTFs from the sessions this week. Looking at Cybersecurity the topic was ‘where’s the firewall’? As digitisation and cloudification move into this industry the edge of the network expands and even disappears. The concept of placing firewalls to product networks doesn’t actually work in a perimeterless network. Additionally, ‘what’s the framework’ was reviewed. Thinking about how you define the security architecture of your network moving into the future.

Aviation used to be glamorous and today it’s not. There’s a glamour gap in attracting younger workers to this space currently. How does this change? With the new innovators discussed throughout the week. Drones, supersonic flight and commercial space endeavours. What about the fear of technology? This also needs to change. To move ahead, current technology must evolve and new technologies need to be embraced. Organisations need the ability to fail when trying new things in order to grow. Of course, always maintaining safety as a priority. Increased collaboration was also a consistent team throughout the week and this is an area ‘where technology flourishes’.

What about everyone’s current focus today?

  • Hygiene: hand washing, social distancing and masking of workers and travellers in order to keep the spread of COVID-19 in check. But additionally, security hygiene. Ensuring that the basics are covered as workers are now more often working remotely and not under the security umbrella of traditional workspaces.
  • The pandemic is an opportunity for this industry to change due to the pause of day-to-day requirements. Three examples of this were offered:
    • National Airspace System moving to National Aerospace System to incorporate new market entrants
    • Data and Cybersecurity increasing in priority as increased collaboration and changing network architectures come into play
    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning are no longer optional, they must be implemented to support future growth.

Safety keeping pace with innovation is the old. Innovating to maintain safety is the new. Smarter airports with touchless travel and biometrics was one example of how to achieve this. These technologies are further along internationally than in the US. Hopefully the pandemic will drive adoption within the US at a faster pace.

In summarisation of all the WTFs discussed during this session, the overarching focus was being able to support a world who is ‘waiting to fly’.

I have to say ATCA got it right this year. This industry tends to discuss the same topics repeatedly until it feels safe branching out. 2020 was a year of branching out. The traditional ATM topics ranked low on the agenda. Not surprising, given the lack of air traffic. New topics such as drones, supersonic travel, commercial space and innovative technologies. Technologies in support of Cybersecurity, AI and machine learning to highlight key discussions. Well done ATCA.  I look forward to further spreading of your wings into these new topics in 2021.