Information and communications technologies (ICT) are gaining an increasingly important role for civil aviation. Although the aviation business has relied on ICT for many decades, the continuing growth:

  • in passenger numbers
  • short and long-haul flights
  • demands for advanced services and
  • the ever-increasing pressure on available radio spectrum

are all creating a need for innovation and harmonization.

Applications extend from professional services, such as air traffic control systems, to services for passengers, such as onboard communications, and ETSI is responsible for the standards for many of them. In addition, within Europe, the Single European Sky (SES) initiative has added legislative pressure to replace the traditional, highly-fragmented air traffic control structures by means of greater harmonization and an assured interoperability through standardization. ETSI's expertise is being put to good use.

The Single European Sky (SES)

The Single European Sky (SES) is an initiative launched by the European Commission to reform the architecture of European air traffic control to meet future capacity and safety needs, organizing airspace and air navigation at a European rather than at a local level.

In 2005, the European Commission set high-level goals for SES to be met by 2020 and beyond. It should:

  • enable a 3-fold increase in capacity which will also reduce delays both on the ground and in the air
  • improve safety by a factor of 10
  • enable a 10% reduction in the effects flights have on the environment
  • provide ATM services to the airspace users at a cost of at least 50% less

The initiative is based on a harmonized regulatory framework, in which the proposed technical regulation is based on Essential Requirements (ERs), Implementing Rules (IRs) and standards that are complementary and consistent. In addition, great emphasis is placed on interoperability.

The modernization of the European Air Traffic Management (ATM) Network will be driven by the European ATM Masterplan maintained by the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU), whilst the fragmentation of the European airspace will be reduced by the so-called Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) defined in the SES II legislative package.

Our Role & Activities

ETSI works with other organizations, notably CEN, CENELEC, the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE), the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) as well as SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) to develop standards for (ground-based) Air Traffic Management (ATM) equipment in support of the Single European Sky Initiative.

Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Data Link

ETSI has developed European Standards under EC standardization requests in order to support the widespread use of solutions like "Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems (A-SMGCS)", "Data Link Services (DLS)" and procedures like "Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM)" in support of SES and in accordance with the European ATM Masterplan.

DLS is based on VDL Mode 2 Link 2000 and ETSI has produced standards for the physical and upper layers for the ground radios that use this format which are constantly updated in order to align them with the latest development in the technology. VDL Mode 2 ETSI standards are available as EN 301 841 series (ground part)

ETSI has also developed standards for VDL Mode 4. VDL Mode 4 is a high-capacity data link that provides a range of communications services that support numerous functions and applications in the ICAO CNS/ATM concept. One of the VDL Mode 4 functions is ADS-B, where a surveillance element is embedded in the system design which regularly transmits the user’s position. This information is used to manage the data link, but also enables a host of communications, navigation and surveillance applications to be realized in support of co-operative air traffic management from the departure gate to the arrival gate. VDL Mode 4 ETSI standards are available as EN 302 842 series (airborne part) and EN 301 842 series (ground part).

Ground based Aeronautical equipment and the Radio Equipment Directive

The current work includes Harmonised Standards under the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) for:

  • radio navigation and communication equipment (Radars, sensors, ground systems for airports: PSR, SSR, MET, WAM, GBAS, A-SMGCS, UHF, VHF, VDL Mode 2, VDL Mode 4, AeroMACS)
  • Passenger applications (Mobile Communication On Board Aircraft, systems and for broadband Direct-Air-To-Ground Communications system)
  • Aeronautical satellite stations (Aircraft Earth Stations, aeronautical terminals communicating with Aeronautical Complementary Ground Components)


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