Driverless vehicle demo in Lyon on 8 and 21 April 2015

On 21/03/2015, in The future is now, by steve

repriseNAVYA Technology will be hosting a demo of their driverless vehicle on 8 and 21 April at their test facility in Lyon, France. You can read more about the NAVYA shuttle here.

BluSky Services has been invited to attend the demo on 8 April and we will be more than happy to be present there and experience the driverless vehicle fist hand.

I am sure many of our readers will have read about the experiments being conducted by the likes of Google and others with driverless cars… It all sounds futuristic and possibly even far away in the future.

NAVYA Technology is a French startup with a dynamic and future oriented crew whose motto seems to be: we can do it! And they can indeed.
The NAVYA shuttle is perfectly capable of operating on public roads, recognizing road signs and traffic lights, avoiding obstacles and tirelessly plodding along the route it was told to follow. All this is done without any additional infrastructure. NAVYA knows the score without the need for wires or other expensive stuff on the road. Being all electric, the vehicle is also squeaky clean.

Airports are of course prime areas of operation for driverless vehicles. Repetitive routes, high frequency and perfect safety is what one needs there and NAVYA delivers. For the time being the targets are land-side and in-terminal operations but we see no reason why one day intelligent vehicles should not be a common sight around aircraft too.

The business case for operating the NAVYA type vehicles is compelling, regardless of the environment concerned. The fact that the vehicles do not need a driver in itself ensures cost savings that start generating a tidy return on investment in a very short time.

We will bring you a full report about the demo. But why not come and join is? There is still time to register. Send an email to Viktoria Fontanel if you would like to attend the demo on either 8 or 21 April or if you would like to have more information about the cute little NAVYA shuttle.

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Speaking in a new environment

On 18/03/2015, in Shop floor talk, by steve

speakerIn my long and varied aviation career I have had the extraordinarily good luck of working in practically every niche and corner of this wonderful industry. Air traffic controller, ATC system builder, ICAO officer, IATA assistant director, consultant… you name it. Over the years this meant a slow but very effective accumulation of knowledge and experience in air traffic management and airline operations with the added flavor of both the private and the government parts of the industry.

I was thinking about this last week when gingerly approaching a new area yet again… The Passenger Terminal Expo in Paris. Being invited as a speaker to this event is an honor in itself but the chance of meeting the folks whose business it is to make sure millions of passengers pass through the airports safely and comfortably felt like an additional special treat, as it was indeed.

The subject of my presentation was something that took form in a brainstorming session in Germany last year after having languished in an amorphous but insistent form in my mind for some time. Were the lesson learned and the methods used in aircraft trajectory based operations (TBO) applicable in the passenger terminal? Or putting it differently: do passengers have trajectories that could be managed to increase capacity?

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Aircraft seats and overripe tomatoes

On 17/03/2015, in ATC world, by steve

Old hands out there will not find much news in this article, though if you have not yet happened on my rumblings about airline behavior, you may in fact find it interesting. In fact, I am aiming for the attention of the many young air traffic controllers and others who still come to work every day wondering whether airlines are actually sane and who also believe that their main (or possibly only…) business is to ensure safety.
I do not blame them for thinking that airlines are irrational and the fallacy of being the key to aviation safety is also something that can be forgiven. It is a matter of education and in that respect, there is a lot that is lacking in to-day’s system.

May be, just may be, after reading this their view of the world will be slightly different, closer to reality and perhaps even better suited to adopting to the larger world (as opposed to their control center) in which they operate.

Let’s get this safety issue out of the way. All of us, working in aviation, has an important role in maintaining the extremely high level of safety the travelling public has come to expect. We do this by following rules and regulations, using approved parts and materials and apply our skills when an unforeseen event comes our way. When Boeing builds an aircraft, they are creating a very expensive business tool using which an airline can in turn create shareholder value. The aircraft must be fuel efficient, environmentally friendly and of course safe to operate. In that order. I know that we all grew up with the motto: safety first, but this is a misleading thing to say. If an aircraft is supremely safe but has lousy fuel economics, nobody will buy it. In other words, the aircraft must do its work supremely well and must do it safely.

The same is true of air traffic control. Although ICAO still puts the word “safety” as the first in the set of tasks of air traffic controllers (maintain a safe and efficient flow of traffic…) in to-day’s environment it means that the controller must do everything to ensure efficient operation of the airspace users and must do it in a way that is safe. The pre-determined procedures, airspace structures and what have you are designed to make this possible. The key to safety is in the system, not the controller. Use the system right and it will be safe… Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. It is not that I am trying to degrade the value of what controllers do. On the contrary. But if we are not careful, the “safety argument” can quickly become a block to progress and we end up with a system that is supremely safe but everyone forced to use it goes bankrupt. Ok, OK, this is a slight exaggeration but you get my drift.

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Single European Sky – Treading water, sinking… or?

On 16/03/2015, in SES News, by steve

There is a very interesting article in the 2-15 March issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology. They launch the story by saying that “after more than 10 years of talks, a single airspace in Europe is no closer to reality”. For someone new to this game, this would sound ominous indeed. For us veterans, the first thing that comes to mind is: so what else is new? I can recall many such articles published over the years and each time it was the same complaint: lots of words, little action, zero results.

I have written about the subject many times and in each case I tried to hint at what may be, just may be, the root cause of this lack of progress. I will try once more, not that I expect anyone to listen. But is I fun to go back in time and bring together a few salient facts that I think amply illustrate why we are where we are to-day and why it is going to be awfully hard to make real progress until some hard facts are in fact accepted… and something is done about them.

The concept of the Single European Sky is excellent and European aviation needs it more than anything else!

Back in 1984 it was a sunny fall afternoon when I arrived in Paris, to take up my new job at ICAO: technical officer RAC/SAR.

Airlines in Europe were in deep trouble. With a fragmented ATC system run almost like independent fiefdoms on the State level and traffic rising, scant attention was paid to creating new capacity. Instead the “solution” was to protect everyone’s home turf and limit the number of flights allowed in the airspace at a given time. Most flights were running with delays in excess of 30 minutes, various industrial actions were disrupting the ATM system even more and the old, also hopelessly fragmented flow control system was strained to the limits. Sectors loaded over capacity were a daily occurrence and it was not surprising: controllers deeply distrusted the system that was supposed to protect them from overloads. The result? The actually existing capacity was kept a secret and only a part was offered for use in the expectation that things will get overloaded anyway and with this trick at least the absolute maximum would not be exceeded. Delays went through the roof.

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