Skip to main content
European Commission logo

The more autonomous - aircraft in the future Air Traffic Management system

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Connected and automated transport (CAT)
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Airborne icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

In Preparation for EU Framework 5

  • European Union and Air Transport Industry jointly identified need
    • To dramatically enhance the operational efficiency and capacity of European Air Traffic Management
    • While maintaining or increasing safety
  • European Union and Air Transport Industry agreed to fund major RTD programmes to bring about the necessary improvements - noting that ATM changes typically required extended time periods to bring about
    Nothing short of a ‘paradigm’ change would be sufficient to meet the predicted requirement


  1. A large project was identified to address all aspects of AT (ground/ air , short/ long term, retrofit/new build)
  2. Subsequently this split into two more manageable projects
    • MA-AFAS (led By BAE SYSTEMS) and AFAS (led by AIRBUS)
  3. The European ATM system has been pushed to breaking point as seen in 1999
    • Predicted growth of 5 to 8% per year for next 10 years
    • Air transport was characterised by :
      • Inefficient routing for operators
      • Long waits and increasing numbers of delayed flights
      • Unacceptable stress for controllers
    • Lack of capacity in Air and at Airport    *
      • Unreliable Voice communications

IATA identified an ATM ‘Brick Wall’ around 2007.


The main project goal was to develop an Operational Concept (OC) that would fit into Europeans future ATM concept, as well as corresponding avionics package that would allow for more autonomous aircraft operation within the European airspace.


ATM is complex - many elements to the solution- however much initial work had already been done.

Key requirements: 

  • Build on ATM concepts already developed eg TORCH project   
    • Apply new technology- particularly in the Aircraft
    • Paradigm Shift - for MA-AFAS -
      + Make more use of Aircraft capability
    • Provide a solution in which - to the extent possible
      • ‘He who pays - Gains’
      •  while maintaining wide interoperability 
    • Enable near term deployment - including retrofit to existing aircraft
  •    Acknowledge that services and procedures have to be modified and adapted in parallel 
    • Concept Definition, Evaluation and Validation for semi-autonomous aircraft operations.
    • Development of Basic Technologies.
    • Validation via ground simulation.
    • Integration of Aircraft, Air Ground Datalink, Ground Network, ATC and AOC End Systems.
    • Flight Trials.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research (DG Research)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Enhanced Surveillance and Separation Assurance

  • Cockpit Display of Traffic Information (CDTI)   
  • Airborne Separation Assurance/ Assistance System (ASAS)
    • Partial Delegation - New ATC instruction
      + Station Keeping
      + Passing and Crossing          
    • Autonomous Operation

4D Flight Path Generation, Negotiation and Guidance

Global Navigation Satellite System - Approaches and Departures

  • Space Based Augmentation
  • Ground Based Augmentation

Taxiway Management   

  • Taxi Map
  • Traffic display (CDTI)
  • Data Linked Taxi Routes

Airline Operation Centre Fleet Management  

  • Flight Planning & CDM
  • Asset Management and Maintenance

Data link Communications   

  • Point to Point, ATN compliant
  • Broadcast, ADS-B, TIS-B

With necessary improvements to flight deck HMI


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!