SESAR Project: Single European Sky ATM Research

The SESAR programme is the operational and technological answer to Europe’s air traffic management challenges.

Embedded in the EU’s ambitious Single European Sky initiative, the aim of SESAR is to ensure the modernisation of the European air traffic management system by coordinating and concentrating all relevant research and development efforts in the European Union.

Settled to manage the development phase of this modernisation programme, the SESAR Joint Undertaking is a €2.1 billion public/private partnership bringing together 2,500 people working on more than 300 projects in Europe and beyond. Aligned with the ATM Master Plan, the work programme covers projects presently extending from 2009 to 2016. Results delivered through the Release process will see the European ATM system gradually evolve towards full performance–based operations by the end of this decade.

3 step changes to SESAR

Since the launch of the Development phase in 2008, we at Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking, have basically driven the programme through 3 steps:

1- The first one was the set-up of the Public Private Partnership with the negotiation and agreement of the technical content and the contractual steps to manage the development phase of the €2.1 billion SESAR programme. Founded by the European Union and Eurocontrol, SESAR JU brings together 15 industry members representing all actors in air traffic management:  the manufacturing industry (e.g Airbus, Thales, Indra or SELEX Sistemi Integrati), airports (e.g Frankfurter Flughafen, Aéroports de Paris, BAA Airports), and air navigation service providers (e.g Deutsche Flugsicherung, Aena, DSNA).


2- The second step was the launch of the Programme in June 2009 and the ramp-up of the technical activities.

A further 25 associate partners including non-European companies (e.g. Boeing or Thales Australia), SMEs, universities and research institutes were taken aboard in 2010-11, to provide additional input and expertise to the programme. In total, around 2,500 experts in Europe and worldwide now are working together on more than 300 interdependent projects to bring ATM technology up to 21st century standards.

Additionally, the SESAR Joint Undertaking actively involves key stakeholders such as airspace users, staff and professional associations as well as regulatory authorities or the military sector in the programme via ad hoc working arrangements. Through their early involvement in the work programme, the SESAR JU ensures that their needs and expertise are fully reflected in the final SESAR technologies and procedures. This makes the SESAR Joint Undertaking a truly international public-private partnership.


3- The third step was the move to the delivery approach through the SESAR releases, beginning 2011. We are currently in this phase, about to now launch Release 3 of the programme. To prove to the aviation community that SESAR is not a research programme hiding in laboratories, SESAR JU and its members defined the so-called SESAR Release approach. Since 2011, a yearly list of projects ready for early validation is approved. The ground-breaking aspect of the SESAR approach is that all technological improvements are directly verified in an operational environment and ready for deployment by European leading airlines.

The 2011 Release featured 25 operational validation exercises which took place throughout Europe in 2011 and early 2012. The exercises focused essentially on the developments of efficient and green terminal air-space operations, the initial 4D trajectory, enhancing flight safety and collaborative network management. Out of these 25 exercises, 7 have already been deemed conclusive to support a decision of industrialisation.

Release 2 and further Releases will build on the experience gained during Release 1, widening the scope of the work and aiming for a more coherent strategy, ensuring that the ATM Master Plan is properly addressed, in line with end-user expectations.
In 2012, the Release –still on-going- has built on the results from Release 1 with a wider scope and an emphasis on coherence with the overall SESAR programme. Its 35 exercises concentrated on four main areas of operational improvements: airport platform safety, airborne operations, ATC operations and network management. Although final results from Release 2 are still coming through the pipeline, we are thrilled to share a preview of a few early successes, particularly in the area of Airports Integration and Throughput:

Time Based Separation minima by Approach Controllers: real-time simulation conducted at NATS CTC successfully validated the use of new controller practices and procedures in combination with controller support tools to enable refined time based separation minima in an effective way. The exercise involved 12 matched TBS/DBS exercises and 27 scenario exercises, involving 9 Heathrow Approach controllers and 1 Heathrow Tower Runway Controller as well as expert observers from safety and human performance and from the IVT.

A-Controller Working Position: real-time simulation conducted at DFS Tower Industrial Based Platform Langen successfully validated the optimisation of the Human Machine Interface by providing the controllers with a clear 'picture' of the actual traffic situation and with all the necessary traffic data to assist them in their control tasks.

Surface Planning and Routing: real-time simulation conducted by DSNA at CDG Industrial Based Platform successfully validated the planning, assignment and potential modification of a route to individual aircraft and vehicles using data link for a safe, expeditious, and efficient movement from their current position to their intended position on the airport movement area.


For 2013, Release 3 will feature 19 validation exercises focusing on the five areas of traffic synchronisation, airport integration & throughput, moving from airspace to 4D trajectory management, conflict management and automation, network collaborative management and dynamic capacity balancing.

 “We are progressively building our experience,  strengthening our approach and leveraging the maturity of the partnership to prioritise the work and prepare for deployment; in that context, bringing tangible evidences of performance benefit will become, more now than before, the absolute priority in 2013 and beyond.” concludes Florian Guillermet, Deputy Executive Director Operations and Programme, SESAR Joint Undertaking.