In Singapore, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is developing Air Traffic Management (ATM) solutions through collaborations between both local and international entities, to nsure safer and more efficient air travel amidst ever-increasing air traffic, especially in the Asia Pacific. One cornerstone of this development is the Centre of Excellence for ATM.

    According to Airbus’s Global Market Forecast for 2015-2034, air traffic will grow at 4.6 per cent annually, requiring some 32,600 new passenger and dedicated freighter aircraft over the next 20 years. The International Air Transport Association forecasts that air traffic in the Asia Pacific will grow more than 6% a year for the next 20 years. This growth poses a number of concerns, ranging from an increased chance of mid-air collisions to backed-up runways that may lead to flight delays.

    Air Traffic Management Potential Bottleneck to Growth
    While airlines can increase fleet size, and more airport terminals or even runways can be built to accommodate the increased traffic, the same amount of airspace will have to handle the ever increasing number of aircraft. ATM is often the unseen and sometimes forgotten part of the aviation value chain. How can ATM accommodate this growth in air traffic, while ensuring the highest level of safety and efficiency?

    As air traffic continues to grow, it has become imperative for Air Navigation Services Providers (ANSPs) including CAAS to find solutions that will provide higher capacity, efficiency and safety standards, for Singapore and the fast-growing Asia Pacific region. Hence, over the years, CAAS has invested heavily in three core ATM areas: Man, or the skill sets of air traffic controllers; Machine, including communications, navigation, surveillance (CNS) and ATM systems; and Method, strategies and processes to enhance the safety of air traffic operations, while raising the capacity to handle rising traffic volumes in the region.

    Singapore: Hub for ATM Solutions
    CAAS embarked on the initiative to develop Singapore as the Centre of Excellence (CoE) for ATM, to further advance our efforts to transform ATM locally and regionally. The CoE for ATM is an ecosystem of research institutes, academia, industry players, international ATM entities and aviation stakeholders, co-creating ATM solutions for Singapore and the Asia Pacific through research and development (R&D). To support the CoE for ATM’s various projects, CAAS has established a S$200 million Centre of Excellence for ATM Programme Fund. Since the CoE for ATM initiative was launched in 2012, Singapore has become one of the few clusters of R&D focusing on ATM in the Asia Pacific. Two key research centres have been established. The ATM Research Institute (ATMRI), the first research centre in Singapore dedicated to ATM, was set up in collaboration with the Nanyang Technological University. The second centre, the MITRE Asia Pacific Singapore (MAPS) was established in partnership with MITRE. This is MITRE’s first overseas research facility.

    “All these efforts have allowed us to build up a pool of more than 50 researchers working on over 20 projects. These centres provide us with the opportunity to safely test-bed solutions and advanced simulations based on actual data before they are translated into real-world applications. They will help to ensure that a high level of safety and service standards is maintained even in the face of air traffic growth,” said Mr Kevin Shum, Director-General of CAAS.

    Building Core Competencies
    Inside the two-storey Air Traffic Control Tower Simulator at the ATMRI, researchers are looking into how aircraft arrival and departure can be optimised to increase efficiency, and reduce waiting times for take-off and landing. Around them, a panoramic 360-degree view of Singapore’s Changi Airport and its environs, complete with 3D aircraft, provide them with simulations for different traffic and weather conditions, duplicating the real-life working environment of the Changi Control Tower cabin.

    The Air Traffic Control Tower Simulator at the ATMRI works in concert with a Radar Simulation Laboratory. Some 10 research programmes and projects will leverage on these world-class simulators, including those on the management of air traffic in inclement weather, and the efficient integration of unmanned aircraft systems in our airspace. Besides translating academic-based research into ATM solutions, the ATMRI has also been tasked with nurturing ATM talent through the support of undergraduate projects, and development of academic courses in ATM.

    MAPS is conducting advanced R&D activities, and serving as a premier collaboration space for regional ATM harmonisation. “By sponsoring collaborative research platforms such as the ATM Laboratory at MAPS, Singapore will facilitate consensus – building among the many stakeholders and demonstrate the benefits of harmonisation,” notes Greg Nelson, Portfolio Manager and Site Leader at MAPS. “Through the Centre of Excellence for ATM, implementation of ATM solutions across the region will be accelerated, benefiting not only Singapore but the entire Asia Pacific region.”

    Enhancing Capabilities
    Beyond these R&D establishments, agreements have also been reached to bring the best available ATM technologies and skills to the city-state. An MOU was signed between CAAS and US-based company Aireon last year to explore space-based ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) technology deployment to enhance the tracking of aircraft in the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR). Currently, air traffic controllers provide larger separations for aircraft flying in areas of the FIR that are not under surveillance coverage–for example, remote areas and oceans. With this technology, real-time positions and en-route status information of all ADS-B equipped aircraft can be tracked, which will allow aircraft to safely fly more closely together, in turn increasing airspace capacity.

    A region-wide initiative that will help airlines reduce holding time and fuel burnt is the development of the Distributed Multi-Nodal Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) concept. This initiative seeks to enhance cross-border traffic flow coordination to improve demand-capacity balancing at regional airports. This project – which kicked off in 2014 and will go into end-2016 – involves Air Navigation Service Providers, airlines and airports from Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is currently into the second stage of the operational trial. This stage focuses on achieving accuracy of demand prediction and demonstration flights in the “live” environment. CAAS will continue to share the progress of the operational trial at various regional air navigation forums to create awareness among the aviation community with a view to push for widespread implementation of cross-border ATFM in the Asia Pacific region.

    Advancing Aviation Together
    ATM is not just a critical part of the Singapore aviation system but it enables the growth of aviation regionally and globally. We will have to raise our ATM capabilities as air traffic in the region grows. As in other fields, we advance by investing in the future, and ATM is no different. Close collaboration with our neighbours and aviation partners is key to the success of building a sustainable aviation future.



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