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Getting ready for flexible and adaptable ATM

The Covid worldwide pandemic has changed the world of aviation, there is no denying it. Where before there were unquestioned expectations that traffic flows would continue to increase, today there is a pervasive sense of uncertainty.

This uncertainty has triggered an important paradigm shift in the aviation sector, and industry leaders, such as Thales, have a responsibility to support their customers through this transition. Whatever it may look like for them.

Driving Forces

The past couple of years have shown companies across the world that business could be carried out differently. While large events - such as trade shows, symposiums, etc - have an indisputable added value with regards to building and strengthening business relations, the same cannot be said for ‘routine’ business travel. The worldwide pandemic has demonstrated that many business ‘routine’ meetings could just as successfully be carried out remotely.

Similarly, the shape of the tourism industry is likely to shift. There will still be seasonal peaks, but the seemingly endless stream of air traffic so characteristic of the pre-Covid world is unlikely to resume in the short and medium term.

Leveraging Expertise to Seize Opportunities

These changes in traveling habits will have a significant impact on the world of aviation. Air Navigation Service Providers will need to adapt to far more unpredictable traffic flows. Furthermore, as environmental concerns climb higher on governmental agendas, ATM authorities will also have a more significant role to play in the greening of the aviation sector.

For Thales, these changes are an opportunity to implement changes that have long been in the making. They are an opportunity to design ATM systems featuring increased automation and flexibility, preparing the aviation sector for a more unpredictable future.

Advances in Automation

Deconflicting planes within a given airspace is no easy task. Pre-pandemic, Air Traffic Control Operators (ATCO) were responsible for controlling an average of 15 planes within their attributed airspace at a given point in time. The level of concentration required leaves very little room to focus on anything other than safety.

For a few years now, Thales has been working on increasing ATM systems’ level of automation to provide its clients with greater efficiency and facilitate ATCOs’ tasks. Today, Thales is stepping up to new challenges through the development of ATM systems that can provide ATCOs with timely, accurate alternatives they simply have to choose from. Leveraging advances in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), alternatives are based on real-time analysis taking into account safety of operations, environmental impacts, capacity and punctuality.

Supported by these new systems, tomorrow ATCOs will be able to play a role in greening the aviation sector without fearing to compromise air safety.

Facilitating Change

Even before the Covid pandemic, technological advances had already increased the aviation sector’s pace of change, putting long-established working practices to test. As the sector seeks a new balance in a post-pandemic world, changes are likely to happen even faster.

To facilitate its customers’ adaptability, Thales is working on facilitating change and looking at creating more modular and flexible architectures for its ATM systems.

Moving away from monolithic architectures, these new systems will feature a stable, reduced and isolated core safety module common to all customers. Non-safety functionalities can then be added more easily depending on market and specific customer needs.

This new modular system architecture will facilitate ‘incremental certification’, which will contribute to reducing costs and delays in the development, certification and integration of new features. Through this method, which does not require safety features to be certified all over again each time, customers can follow technological trends with complete peace of mind.


Unpredictable traffic flows and the increasing pace of technological change mean that ATM authorities might not just seek modularity in their systems, but also flexibility. As the aviation sector undergoes an important transformation, the old CAPEX model may no longer be a viable, financial option; rather, the possibility of combining with, or switching to, OPEX will become more interesting.

Leveraging strong expertise in technologies such as the cloud Thales can support its customers in their transition toward a more OPEX-oriented model. Because Thales solutions will also be available on (edge) cloud, customers will be able to decide, according to their specific needs, if they wish to use the cloud, what to use from the cloud, and when. This would grant them increased flexibility in adapting to traffic peaks and sudden changes.

Moving with change, in confidence

The next few years will be critical for the aviation sector. ATM authorities will have to show high levels of adaptability to address both post-pandemic recovery challenges and shifting government priorities. Technological advances will be a key asset, yet their breadth and variety may be overwhelming to keep up with.

A long-standing, trusted partner of ATM authorities, Thales seeks to support its customers in this new transition. To this end, digital twin technologies will come to complement automation, incremental certification and cloud opportunities. Through simulation, they will allow faster development and implementation of new functionalities. Used as a digital cooperative tool, they will also facilitate demonstration and testing of new functionalities anywhere.