The UK is considering mandating satellite-based aircraft navigation in certain areas of controlled airspace, as part of proposals to enhance the country's airspace system through the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS).
The UK Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) FAS is aimed at maximising airspace capacity, enhancing flight efficiency and reducing the impact of aviation on the environment.
The FAS is also designed to allow implementation of the latest technology across the system, including the mandate deployment of performance-based navigation (PBN) in some selective areas of the country's controlled airspace.
PBN assists aircraft in flying more precise routes through the use of satellite navigation. CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said that currently it is being discussed that the UK is facing a shortage in capacity for aviation, especially in the south-east of England.
"Much of the comment centres on airport runway capacity. But in some areas airspace capacity is also a major factor," Haines said.
According to Haines, the situation will have a significant impact on the overall efficiency of aviation and its impact on the environment, since the airspace system can be a key factor in fuel burn rates, punctuality and runway utilisation for airlines.
"But, unlike the tricky subject of extra runway capacity, airspace is much more under the aviation sector's control; indeed we can make significant improvements now," Haines added.
Aimed at restructuring the 40-year old airspace system, the FAS project is expected to allow aircraft continuous climb-outs on takeoff to rapidly place aircraft to their optimum cruising height and provide fuel efficient, time-saving routes.
The new strategy is also expected to enhance management of arrivals at airports, linking the complete aviation network to allow sharing the latest flight information, therefore providing improved operational decisions, while increasing flexibility to cope with unexpected events.
To be tied up with European Commission's Single European Sky initiative, the new strategy has been developed together with airlines, airports, air traffic control agencies, general and business aviation, the UK and Ireland aviation authorities, the DfT and MoD.
With work on some FAS projects underway, the involved organisations will continue to work on implementing the strategy in the UK and are expected to make airspace capable of implementing the new procedures by 2030.
Image: Satellite-based navigation could free up capacity at airport's such as Heathrow.