Having a global vision of the Safety & Security state-of-the-art is now possible thanks to OPTICS2, a Coordination and Support Action funded under Horizon 2020. Many projects at national and European level, such as CleanSky, SESAR and Secure Societies, have been analysed. The aim was to assess the progress of aviation safety and security research towards achieving Flightpath 2050 goals, and to make research more effective and efficient, by identifying future needs, gaps and barriers, by providing recommendations for further actions.

Micol Biscotto, R&D Project Manager at Deep Blue and coordinator of the OPTICS2 project, was interviewed by CORDIS Magazine and described the main OPTICS2 results. The OPTICS2 main achievements, she explains, are the high-level global vision of the aviation safety and security research landscape, the Open Repository and the synthesis of the state-of-the-art in EU-funded aviation safety and security R&I. This information is beneficial for several relevant stakeholders, such as EU agencies and national authorities and industry research communities. The Open Repository, for example, a sustainable, interactive, engaging and intuitive online platform where stakeholders and interested people can read the details about state-of-the-art of Safety and Security in aviation, is essential for understanding to what extent European Safety and Security research is on track for Flightpath 2050 and to what extent it respects the SRIA (Strategic Research and Innovation agenda), the roadmap listing the strategic objectives for Research and Innovation, drawn up by ACARE (Advisors Council for Aviation Research).  

OPTICS2 deemed also necessary to perform a benchmarking analysis to identify areas for potential innovation and transversal issues that need to be addressed to increase the uptake of research ideas by industry, thus generating a better return on investment for the research. Since OPTICS2 started in 2017, there have been many improvements in Safety (under-researched areas have been investigated, with an increase in drone projects, projects covering Safe Performance and Resilience by Design and projects involving human factors) and in Security, especially Security Intelligence. But there are still many gaps and areas that need to be researched more deeply.

The 10 Safety Action Areas in which the EU will have to invest are:

  1. Ensuring the Safety of the future aviation ‘skyscape’
  2. Finding new ways of organizing the air transport system
  3. Increasing automation for the aviation workforce of the future which will be different from today
  4. Finding the right Human-AI partnerships
  5. Evaluating the role of Big Data and Machine Learning  
  6. Sharing more data between various stakeholders in the field of safety intelligence and data analytics. enabling multiple actors to share their data confidentially, as well as benchmarking and safety insights that will lead to safer operations and better designs of aircraft, airports and air traffic systems. Size matters.
  7. Consolidating the safety of “all-weather operations”
  8. Adopting electronic devices with increasing automation
  9. Improving the survivability of aircraft
  10. Developing more agile and less fragmented certification methods (which are still fit-for-purpose) such as virtual certification, to maximise the implementation of safe innovations in the aviation sector.

The 10 Priorities for Security include:

  1. A more strategic and collaborative approach for biological threats to an international air transport system 
  2. A more strategic and collaborative capability-driven process for security is required to provide a secure and resilient transport system through improved integration of systems and procedures across the four transport modes
  3. An Aviation-Wide Security Culture and associated validated, mature training material
  4. A common framework to address legal, ethical and societal concerns 
  5. A system-wide Horizon Scanning capability that can anticipate the longer-term threats likely to emerge
  6. More effective and coordinated tools for real-time security incident management, including spill-over effects into other transport modes and coordinated multi-modal transport attacks
  7. A more global and integrated approach to Security 
  8. A common and compatible Security Baseline, both for aviation and across the four transport modes
  9. Security Resilience in Design
  10. A strategic assessment of future ATS operational security requirements to determine if there are critical technologies requiring European Technological sovereignty.

There is a need to create a platform, along the lines of the DG Home Community of Users model, that brings industries, regulators and researchers to work together. In this regard, the rules on ethics and the use of personal data still hinder the investigations needed to improve future services regarding Safety and Security. 

Another goal is to increase communication between the four main transport sectors (airborne, waterborne, road and rail) in order to share common guidelines. Some projects, such as SAFEMODE, are on the right track and see Safety as a cross-domain, demonstrating that cross-modality projects are an effective response: focusing on common objectives, with an eye to cybersecurity (including passenger involvement) and technological advances, can lead to a cooperation between industries, regulators and researchers.

Finally, the greatest challenge is economic, as it is important to understand how much will have to be invested in research to achieve common Safety and Security standards. Having a clear and up-to-date view of the state of research at the national and European level is the first step toward more effectiveness in achieving Flightpath 2050 goals.