Marketplace to enable the exchange of airport slots to be developed

Posted: 24 March 2021 | | No comments yet

Built with a ‘privacy first’ approach, the platform will enable the exchange of airport slot priorities in a fair and trustworthy way.

Marketplace to enable the exchange of airport slots to be developed

Credit: Frequentis

Together with EUROCONTROL, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), the University of Linz (Austria) and Swiss International Airlines, Frequentis aims to foster the emergence of a new kind of marketplace for airlines exchanging slot priorities in air traffic management (ATM).

The platform – to be developed by the SlotMachine consortium – is expected to enable the more flexible, faster, scalable and (semi-) automated processing of slot sequence transactions in a fair and trustworthy way. Built with a ‘privacy first’ approach, the aim will be to protect sensitive airline data from competitors and airport operators and, therefore, fully unleash the potential of slot swapping.

The project will focus on the user-driven optimisation in the allocation of air traffic flow management (ATFM) slots to flights. ATFM slots are allocated times of departure, which are issued by the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) to regulate traffic in congested areas of airspace. Until now, simple exchanges between two flights from the same airline company have been possible. These are a helpful way for airlines to prioritise expensive flights in order to minimise delays and keep costs down.

Slot swapping between different airlines are currently restricted to two flights. The flight cost structures, which may vary for any number of reasons – from the provisioning of connecting flights for passengers or work-time restrictions for crew members – is confidential information for the airlines. This is where the SlotMachine project comes in.

The objective is to optimise the allocation of flights according to airline priorities, based on the cost structure of the different airlines. By using blockchain technology and a secure multi-party computation, the project aims to extend the existing User-Driven Prioritisation Process (UDPP) solution that is currently in development under Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) 2020 to allow for more flexible prioritisation with no need for the disclosure of any confidential information.

This technology allows for secure, auditable transactions without the need for a central broker, whereby stakeholders are able to enter transactions without disclosing information to other users. By demonstrating the feasibility of a privacy-preserving platform, the foundation can be laid for the development of a product that will be an essential element in the aviation industry in the future. It is also expected to lead to a better use of existing resources at airports, the higher efficiency of airlines, lower emissions and shorter delays for passengers.

To ensure the validity of the results, the project will hold an external advisory board to review requirements and design decisions, as well as a demonstrator in two or three iterations throughout the project duration. Representatives from airlines, airports or air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and other interested stakeholders who want to review and validate the outcomes of this project can join the advisory board and participate in the upcoming workshops (with the first due to take place at the end of April 2021).

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