There was a recurring them throughout all the presentations at the ATCA Global event – cybersecurity and trust. Although this topic has been increasingly mentioned during the last two remote ATCA events, it was truly prevalent in all discussions this time around.

On day one of the event, Luci Holemans - Manager, ATO Cybersecurity Group Federal Aviation Administration provided her insights in a session focused on Cybersecurity Implications in the Advanced Air Mobility Ecosystem. Kicking off with her opening statement, ‘you can’t have safety without cybersecurity, it’s part of a flight just like a tail rotor is part of an aircraft.’ Solutions are needed, but they don’t necessarily need to be global, they can be regional. The important thing is that we have them. The possibilities for cyber threat vectors need to be considered along the entire value chain. One area that was brought up was related to maintenance and where/who will be providing maintenance support for AAM? Another area for consideration is physical security at vertiports which will likely not have the same level of security infrastructure as a large airport. Cyber needs to be embedded in programs for this space, considering airborne voice-to-voice communications and voice-to-ground communications. If you consider AAM is likely to function with an Internet of Things (IoT) communications infrastructure, this presents a different model for security of these connections/communications then today’s ATM infrastructure.

The next panel ATM attended considered Airspace Integration from a Global Perspective. Moderated by Brian Bruckbauer - President & CEO Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), the panel included Alex Bristol – CEO, Skyguide, Simon Hocquard - Director General, CANSO, Tim Arel – COO, ATO, Federal Aviation Administration, Brian Wynne - President & CEO AUVSI and Giorgio Cioni - Director, Armament and Aerospace Capabilities, Defence Investment Division NATO. The main priority unanimously across the panel to achieve this goal is collaboration. Unfortunately, the main impediment to success was also unanimously agreed across the panel as lack of collaboration. Along the lines of collaboration, the importance of learning from each within the spectrum of old ways and new ways of doing things was raised. Airlines and ANSPs tend to focus on the old way things have already been done, with new airspace entrants having a different view. Thus, creating a clash of cultures.

Looking into some of the more specific concerns raised across the panel, a few highlights are shared below:

  • Spending allocation: what is appropriate to ensure a balance between spending on new innovation and spending on maintenance and upgrades on current systems?
  • Planning cycles: with all the new airspace entrants, you can’t really plan beyond three years out. This is completely opposite the planning cycles of ANPS in the past who renewed functionality every ten years (or in some cases even longer).
  • Rules-based international order: to manage growth as global societies and prepare for the possibility that drones could be weaponised for terrorist use.
  • How do new technologies fit:  artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning.

When building cybersecurity protocols, the key word is ‘trust’. As we integrate new entrants into the airspace and work more globally ‘trust’ is also the key word. This integration must be built on mutual trust and information sharing. This will require a change in mindset. CANSO shared regional examples of ANSPs working together….or not. Latin America shares information, MEA doesn’t share information and Africa is the role model for trust and information sharing. Eighteen countries are working together to implement a single African sky. They are leap frogging other such initiatives globally. Skyguide offered another mindset challenge. ANSPs are built to control. How do we change from a mindset of control, to one of integration and management along with partners?

In summary, the top three things recommended for our industry to integrate were:

  1. Talk to each more
  2. Be open to learning from each other
  3. Change the current mindset from ‘we can’t’ to ‘we can’.

Some very interesting food for thought in this panel!