Air Traffic Management Magazine recently attended the inaugural ATCA Global event in Washington, DC. You might ask why this event is ‘inaugural’, as ATCA Annual has been around for many years. The difference is the global focus. Both speakers and attendees represented a more global audience then you might normally see at this event. The theme of this year’s event “Connecting People to Shape Tomorrow’s Airspace” set the stage to look across our airspace for inclusion of new market entrants that will impact overall traffic management. There were four theatres during the show – Air Traffic Management, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and UAS Integration, Space Integration and Innovation and Technology. Additionally, there was a central keynote theatre with some of our industry experts exclusively presenting. As part of our coverage there will be some high level round ups and deep dive features with keynote speakers.
Day One kicked off with a keynote address: Blurring the Lines Between Air and Space with Pam Melroy, Deputy Administrator NASA. Stay tuned for an in-depth feature discussion of the presentation and our interview with the NASA team. Next on the was a visit with Adacel and an opportunity to test their Virtual Reality (VR) ATC training tool. Also, to be detailed in a feature review. Following Adacel, the topic of Space continued with a fireside chat discussion with Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Special Assistant to the Vice Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force the Future of Space Traffic Management. A feature on this session will also be available this week.
The next session ATM attended looked at Certifying, Codifying and Debunking the Myths of AAM and UAS. Speakers on this panel represented from different perspectives of these markets - Lisa Ellman - Partner, Hogan Lovells, Max Fenkell - Director of Federal Policy, Joby Aviation, Eileen Lockhart - Director of Utility Services & Customer Experience Spright - Air Methods Corporation and moderation was led by Abigail Smith - Deputy Executive Director, UAS Integration Office Federal Aviation Administration.
This panel came at these topics from different perspectives that are not always heard – how do topics like eVTOL and uncrewed aircraft solve specific challenges, not just why they are a new way of flying. Some of the key discussion centered around the need for new workers in this industry and the huge about of workforce growth expected from this industry – 86,000 jobs in the just the next year according to Joby Aviation. Implications on existing physical infrastructure – do we really need to construct all new vertiports, or can these aircraft be safely integrated into existing general aviation airports and even larger regional/international airports. Scale can come by a site-specific approach to implementing eVTOL and AAM into the NAS.
One last point to note was the focus on innovation and safety and how these two topics can co-exist in the current US process for review, certification and regulation. If you consider how long it takes to go through this process – roughly two years as a general rule of thumb – the aircraft that are receiving certification today were developed two years ago. In traditional aviation/aircraft development things don’t evolve that fast, but in the world of drones, eVTOL and AAM – are we risking certification of now outdated technology/solutions? As an industry we need to strike a balance so that we ensure aviation safety at the highest level, but don’t get left behind other regions when it comes to innovation.