The innovative proposal of Startical, created by Indra and ENAIRE, to launch a constellation of small satellites to improve air traffic management (ATM) has received significant backing from the European Commission, which will support the development of a key demonstrator to speed up the deployment of the solution.
The Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) fund, will make a contribution of around 15 million euros to the ECHOES project, led by Startical, ENAIRE and Indra, with the objective of validating and quantifying the advantages, reliability and availability, with which this space infrastructure will transform the air navigation sector, making it much more sustainable and bringing it closer to the decarbonisation objective set for 2050.
The proposal secured this high percentage of funding in the call for Intelligent Transport projects launched by CINEA thanks to an excellent rating, with some of the highest possible scores in the various evaluation criteria. This is a recognition of its technical solvency, its innovative nature, the enormous impact of the initiative and its disruptive capacity.
The EU's strong support for the ECHOES project through this call, in addition to allowing for the continuation of the investments in this technology within the framework of the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (SESAR 3 JU) and its Digital European Sky research and innovation programme, is compatible with the Next Generation Funds, which are considered a sign of the Commission and the Member States' consistency and complementarity in terms of promoting the development of major capabilities for air infrastructure and for the European and Spanish aerospace sector.
In addition to improving the capacity, fluidity, efficiency and environmental friendliness of air transport, this disruptive critical satellite infrastructure, with a major technological and industrial component, will act as a driving force that will position the Spanish and European industry at the forefront of new space, a business segment with strong growth potential. It will mean a leap forward in terms of quality, which in turn will boost the sector's competitiveness on a global scale.
Transformative technology that acts as a driving force
Startical's managing director, Fernando García, says, "The European Union and CINEA are decisively backing an initiative that provides a groundbreaking and bold solution to the challenges faced by the sector to ensure its sustainability and growth. As a strong driving force, the project should provide momentum for the development of an industrial sector that, in Europe, has substantial capabilities, but that must move towards the deployment of the paradigms of the new commercial Space."
ENAIRE's managing director, Ángel Luis Arias, highlights, "The confidence the EU has placed in a project that offers a unique opportunity to place our industry on the global cutting edge in terms of the new Space segment, which is currently growing rapidly."
Indra's Director of Integrated Systems and Space, Domingo Castro, says, "The deployment of a large constellation of satellites, which will be replaced every five years, ensures a constant flow of work that could energise the entire sector, also requiring the development of completely new advanced technologies on a constant basis."
Oceanic and remote routes
As part of the ECHOES demonstrator, two small satellites will be launched into space to provide combined VHF voice and data communications and automatic dependent surveillance broadcast services to meet the needs of air traffic controllers and airlines.
The objective is to provide a quality service in oceanic, polar and remote areas that existing radars and terrestrial systems cannot cover. This prevents aircraft from having to increase the safety buffer on arrival, slowing down and causing traffic on some of the busiest routes on the planet.
The project will demonstrate the feasibility, potential environmental impact reduction, and cost-benefit ratio that ATM services provided from space could offer, paving the way for regulators and standardisation bodies to establish the rules for their deployment and for the optimisation of air routes.
ECHOES allows for the continuation of investment in the development of these technologies within the SESAR’s VOICE project. At the same time, the roll-out of the project confirms the high expectations that airports, air navigation service providers and airlines, as well as the European Commission, have expressed regarding the Startical project and its transformational capacity in support of the Digital European Sky, during the last edition of the World ATM Congress, held in Madrid last June.
The ECHOES project consortium, coordinated by Startical, also includes ENAIRE, Indra, Mitiga, NAV Portugal and DLR, and works in collaboration with a group of 21 organisations from all over the continent representing industry, universities, navigation service providers, national safety agencies and other institutions, including some of the major regulatory bodies such as EUROCAE and EASA and highly significant industry players such as IATA and EUROCONTROL.