DFS, the German air navigation service provider, and its partners won two prizes at the ATM Awards 2020 for the projects DIGITS and Improved Environmental Performance for Airspace Users.
The DIGITS research project involved the air navigation service providers from the United Kingdom (NATS) and Italy (ENAV) as well as EUROCONTROL's Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) in addition to DFS. This project won the Enabling Technology category. The aim of the project was to improve the sharing of trajectory information between aircraft and air traffic control systems. If an aircraft's predicted position in space (3-D) is supplemented by the fourth dimension, time, one speaks in the air-traffic-control world of 4-D planning. Together with six airlines, multiple technology vendors and under the leadership of Airbus, the transmission of trajectory data from the cockpit to air-traffic-control ground stations was tested in an initial trial.
The successful tests comprised 20,000 flights and more than 1.4 million transacted data sets. In the future, the findings from these tests can be used as a basis for the development of additional assistance systems for air traffic controllers. DFS sees this issue as a cornerstone for future operational procedures as it will improve situational awareness and increase predictability and plannability in highly frequented airspaces. This could make flights even safer, more economical and more environmentally friendly in the future.
As part of a FABEC cooperation, DFS, together with the air navigation service providers of Luxembourg, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland as well as MUAC, also won the ATM Award 2020 in the category Research, Innovation and the Environment. The joint package of environmental programmes for airspace users covered removing route restrictions, an advanced flexible use of airspace by civil and military users, new direct flight paths, shorter Alpine routes and near-perfect flight efficiency.
Together with its FABEC partners, DFS took advantage of the 2020 traffic downturn to reduce the horizontal deviation from the optimal flight path to a peak value in Europe of less than 1 percent and also to further optimise vertical profiles. These improvements are now integrated into daily operations. This means that the measures from the programme will bring long-term benefits – even when air traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels.
"These two projects are an example of how DFS, together with its partners, has continued to work on technological and operational improvements – even during a pandemic. The low traffic volume offers opportunities, particularly for the development and implementation of more environmentally friendly flight profiles, which we are keen to exploit," said Dirk Mahns, Chief Operating Officer at DFS. "We are very proud that our efforts to make air transport more environmentally friendly have been recognised with this important industry award."
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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2020. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Before 2020, around 2,200 air traffic controllers guided up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than 3 million movements every year. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 16 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. R. Eisenschmidt GmbH is another DFS subsidiary which markets publications and products for General Aviation. Kaufbeuren ATM Training (KAT) is responsible for training military air traffic services personnel. DFS has been working on the integration of drones into air traffic since 2016 and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom.