SKY HIGHWAYS: build the present to protect future

If aerospace is the present, navigation of the skies is certainly the future

Elon Musk recently launched another 56 satellites into orbit, surpassing 2300 satellites in space (of which 2000 are still active). If we consider that there are about 9000 satellites in orbit and that SpaceX alone plans to build a massive constellation of 12,000, with a possible later extension of the number to 42,000, we realize how the current regulations are not sufficient to handle space traffic.

If aerospace is the present, navigation of the skies is certainly the future. While flying machines remain something linked to the cinema of the 1980s, there is no doubt that the economy and automation, thanks mainly to the development of artificial intelligence, are moving towards a type of mobility that exploits the airspace at our disposal. Commercial space flights, cargo drones, air ambulances, and quadcopters, are just some of the ways in which we use and will use airspace.

This scenario, of course, only considers the civil aspects of the use of satellites and aerospace objects in general, leaving military applications and regulations for another time. To speed up this already rapidly evolving process and to prevent problems that are difficult to manage now, it is essential to focus on two fundamental aspects: the management of aerospace traffic and thus of orbits, and avoiding accidents and collisions as much as possible, especially if one imagines the continued use of UAVs in urban spaces.

If the general resolution has some common points we must differentiate, considering the differences between the aerospace scenario and the extra-atmospheric one.

Let us go in order.

Managing air traffic for autonomous or remotely guided objects means not only creating a particularly strict and precise regulation, but also studying trajectories and routes that already consider not an initial situation with the skies still clear, traversed only by a few dozen drones, but a scenario with particularly busy skies. Space, on the other hand, is already in a complicated situation, the result of past management errors, and a change, of course, is needed, focusing on the study of the best orbit available for a given mission and thus on the minimum number of satellites needed to satisfy its requirements, and finally on how to re-enter as many satellites as possible to avoid occupying space with objects that are now useless, capable only of generating debris and causing collisions.

On the topic of the latter, if in aerospace SST and SSA are vital for the survival of assets and the success of missions, in aviation control to avoid collisions becomes necessary, especially for the security of people who might, for example, find themselves in the surroundings of an impact between two self-driving objects in an urban center.

Control rooms and continuous real-time analysis of airspace and trajectories, together with the ability to predict future scenarios, are the basis for making the “Sky Highways” a sustainable and safe reality.


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