ATM Magazine spoke with DFS Chairman and CEO, Arndt Schoenemann at WATMC.  We discussed many topics from remote tower to air mobility to the most current airspace challenges and a look ahead.

Starting with the remote tower topic.  We looked at some of the research work DFS is currently doing to support the use of remote tower for an airport with parallel runways.  This will start with redundancy systems and could ultimately allow for 70% of air traffic to be managed from the ATC centre. This work is being conducted in advance of tower refurbishment requires for Munich Airport in the future.

Involving the ATCOs in remote tower considerations has been a great way to gain feedback on proposed tools and help to smooth the transition to a new way of working. The remote tower activities in Germany involving the transition of the management of Erfurt air traffic to Leipzig had ATCOs involved from the beginning in the development of a solution. This early involvement is key to implementing remote tower solutions.

Establishing a data transfer infrastructure is also a key requirement to remotely support air traffic.  With Fraport already managing 14 airports in Greece, there is a data transfer infrastructure already in place to support future information sharing. This brings into consideration the topic of cloud-based data transfer and how it might be used. Today the development of cloud-based solutions to share flight data can allow a move toward a reduced cockpit crew (although likely to be focused on freight flights). The question arises as to what would be the role of the ATCOs if there was an issue on one of these flights with a reduced cockpit crew? Not quite ready for prime time, but an interesting discussion for the future.

DFS is one of the ANSPs whose airspace management has been substantially impacted by the war in Ukraine.  Some examples of the impact include:

  • Increased traffic rerouting of north/south Europe routes
  • Increased military corridor requirements that needed to be implemented within 30 minutes of notification
  • Increased surveillance and refueling support
  • An increase of more than 50% of military traffic to be managed.

The good news is that within the DFS area of responsibility military/civilian integration was already implemented and it allowed a faster response time then if this had to be set up from the start. NATO expressed their support of how quickly DFS was able to meet their needs.

The environment is a key topic for all ANSPs today.  The increase in the use of technology such as Datalink will allow us to reduce the environmental impact of aviation.  Route optimisation programmes such as free route airspace (FRA) have allowed for a 97.5% optimisation in the last years.  Continuous Descent Operations (CDO) will allow us to decrease CO2 further in the future.

DFS is involved in the Air Mobility Initiative in Bavaria, Germany. By working with Airbus to test helicopters they can build simulations for air taxis.  Many airports are already investing in a future vision as to how to be involved in air mobility.  Air taxis or eVTOL will initially work more like helicopters in urban environments to move people from point A to point B in megacities on a set schedule.

Looking ahead at future technology, we discussed the importance of the Single European Sky and expanding the work that MUAC and KUAC have already done related to the COBRA project.“During the last years, our industry has come together to collaborate across stakeholders. We need to continue this collaboration going ahead in order to evolve air travel and further reduce our climate impact.”