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With the release of the revised SES 2+ proposals, the discussions around implementing Air Traffic Management (ATM) Data Service Provider (ADSP) across Europe have gained traction. In a previous blog my Egis colleague Carole Dupré provided an overview of the definitions and set up of ADSPs, whilst more recently Ben Stanley looked at the main drivers for change. In this blog I give an overview of some key building blocks which organisations will have to put in place to make that change happen.

Our discussions with air navigation service providers and industry show that from a technical point of view it appears very possible to establish ADSPs today. However, while there is relative confidence in the potential benefits of ADSPs (for example related to resilience), there are significant concerns around the obstacles that must be overcome to enable wider ADSP roll out. Focusing on enabling ‘building blocks’ may make it easier to overcome these challenges by creating a structure for an organisational change management process.

1. Clarify liability arrangements

The first crucial building block essential for ADSP creation is to create clarity around the liability arrangements. The creation of ADSPs result in air traffic service providers relying on a third-party provider for safety-critical data, potentially cross-border. This can result in concerns around the ability to ensure service continuity and a reliance on potentially erroneous data. These concerns affect controllers, who are the ones using the data for service provision, and management, who are responsible for organisational safety. States will also take interest because, as the Überlingen case showed, it is the States who carry the primary responsibility and thus implicit liability for an accident or incident caused by the Air Navigation Service in the airspace within their territory.

Clarity on the liability arrangements must be ensured, so that the change to using ATM data provided by an external provider is appropriately indemnified. Where required, appropriate service level agreements and insurance provisions should be put in place, with guidance to all stakeholders on a harmonised and well-accepted approach.

2. Engage in creating appropriate standards

The objective of introducing ADSPs is the creation of a common data layer and a competitive market, ultimately allowing air traffic service providers to procure data processed in a cost efficient, specialised and innovative manner. For the market to be competitive, air traffic service providers must have the ability to easily switch between ATM data suppliers. The ease of such a switch is strongly driven by the existence of appropriate interoperability standards. Without such standards, it is likely that suppliers will have to undertake additional work to ensure interoperability, resulting in increased costs and delayed implementations. Appropriate interoperability standards would on the other hand allow air traffic service providers to flexibly switch between ADSPs as required.

Air navigation service providers should actively engage with regulators and suppliers to ensure that the work on interface interoperability progresses efficiently and productively, ideally focusing on a service-oriented approach utilising a layered reference architecture.

3. Demonstrate feasibility

The successful roll out of ADSPs is also dependent on the buy in and involvement of all stakeholders. With concerns raised around the reliability of a potential ADS service and the operational benefits from the dynamic cross-border delegation of air traffic services (ATS), large-scale demonstrations will be needed to ensure buy in. These demonstrations should be undertaken across a range of operational use cases to validate the key concepts and gradually increase the visibility of benefits of ADS.

4. Agree certification approach

Organisational certification is another activity which will have to be managed. We expect ATM Data Services to be defined and certified against, and the ADSP to be certified as an air navigation service provider as with any other provider, processor or user of ANS operational data. In the early transition phases, this could be achieved by the certified and vertically integrated ANSP providing ADS to a third party (e.g. Coflight Cloud Services). Certification is expected to create trust within the industry, in particular for the Member States and Air Traffic Service Providers (ATSP) within which the data will be used. As with the some of the other building blocks, a lack of certainty will lead to questions on compliance, likely delay the creation of ADSPs.

5. Clarify competence and training requirements

From a staff point of view, the creation of ADSPs will have the biggest impact on the jobs of technical staff currently working for national air navigation service providers. Those staff remaining within the air traffic service provider will face changes to their scope of work, whereas staff who move to work for the ADSP will face a new organisation, structure and potentially operational culture. ADSPs are more likely to be operate across a number of countries, requiring more interfaces and harmonised language (e.g. aviation English for the technical staff). What’s more, the increased specialisation expected to be observed within ADSPs will create new training requirements. Competency will have to be continuously managed for the ADSP to meet its service level agreement, quality or certification requirements. All this means that national supervisory authorities will need to work closely with entities wishing to become ADSPs in line with the certification framework described above.

6. Continuously manage change

The last, but certainly not least important element of enabling the transition towards ADSPs, is ensuring appropriate change management processes are in place. This must include a regular engagement with social and human dimension issues alongside a proactive approach to resolving any identified challenges. Change management best practice is already available amongst other industries who have faced up to the challenges and opportunities of cross-border outsourcing, such as Europe’s energy, financial, rail and healthcare sectors. An important part of this is strong and consistent leadership, creating a vision of the future in line with the local context and needs.

These are the essentials which should form part of the plan for implementing ADSPs. They will require all stakeholders to collaborate around a common vision to see progress in the coming years, even more so as the sector recovers to a sustainable new normal. What part will you play?

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