skeyes ensures the safety and efficiency of air traffic in Belgium. The air traffic controllers of skeyes supervise more than 3,000 aircraft every day, representing more than a million aircraft movements per year. The autonomous public company operates in the heart of Europe, in one of the continent's busiest and most complex airspaces. skeyes is active at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liege and Ostend. Thanks to its CANAC 2 air traffic control center, skeyes manages flight movements over Belgium and part of Luxembourg.

Challenges in the aviation sector

skeyes is on its way to a world full of surprising challenges. Some are rather clear, so that skeyes can anticipate skillfully. Other challenges are rather challenging and more complex: liberalization of the market, new entrants (in the market as well as in the air), new technologies, sustainability, congestion of the airspace …

As we take steps towards data-driven, autonomous transport, human presence will also take on a different form. How do you manage an airspace with both autonomous and non-autonomous users of the airspace?

The knowledge and experience that we have gained will give us a head start in the revival of air traffic.

Johan Decuyper, CEO, skeyes

Ready for take off: how we created possible futures

Exploring skeyes' role in this changing environment is therefore a logical next step. Based on our future outlook, we have built up scenarios around 2 important core uncertainties:

  1. The fragmentation and complexity of European structures and their influence on aviation - will it become one Europe that will fall back on (shared) coherent agreements or will nationalism, protectionism and isolationism break through?
  2. The expected intensity of air transport: is demand increasing, or will it stabilize or even decrease?

Based on this, we developed 4 scenarios, together with a core team of skeyes. This included people from Innovation, International Affairs, Technical Services, Business Units Flanders & Wallonia, Digital Transformation, New Way of Working, Projects, operations & services, ...

We questioned experts from both inside and outside the skeyes ecosystem, from Amazon to IMEC, and asked them how they saw the future of aviation in 2030. In this way we collected the most important uncertainties.

During the collaboration it became clear to skeyes that their innovation structure would not be sufficient to shape the projects that emerged from the scenario exercise later on. That is why we started the Innovation excellence program in parallel.

2 breakthrough moments

After these scenarios were finished, we took the core team on an external mission where they were literally immersed in the future. Destination: droneport Sint-Truiden.

The mission at Droneport was a real breakthrough moment. This was important in order to be able to detach from the everyday and to be able to "ideate" in the scenarios. We literally immersed the team in the future.

A second defining moment was the “Drone Experience Mission”, together with the management of skeyes and some of their important stakeholders. We went to the location where the first European passenger drone was built and this gave important input for a constructive conversation with the CEO and the Chairman of the Board of Management of Volocopter. The conversation resulted in an open vision of new technologies, which accelerated the establishment of subsidiary SkeyDrone. In addition, skeyes thus created a shared vision of the future, together with their stakeholders such as Brussels Airport, FPS Mobility, etc.

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8 tracks to be ready for the future

All the above led to 8 different innovation tracks:

  1. Future airspace
  2. Urban air mobility
  3. Automation & autonomous (air) mobility
  4. Data driven (advisory) products
  5. Expertise validation & development
  6. Future/evolution of safety & security
  7. Infrastructure & technology
  8. Multimodal traffic management
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Data as important strategic pillar

Many of these innovation tracks are related to data. That is why TomorrowLab is now working with skeyes on a data vision, based on the Building Enterprise Intelligence Program. Moreover, the skeyes story is not finished yet. They have recently renewed their contract.

Johan Decuyper, CEO skeyes: “The corona crisis has put the growth of aviation on hold for a while. Together with all our partners in the sector, we want to start working on the recovery as soon as possible. It is therefore extremely important that we continue to focus on and invest in strategic innovation projects such as digital towers and drones. The knowledge and experience that we have already gained in this area in recent years, also in collaboration with Tomorrowlab, will give us a head start in the revival of air traffic. In an internationally highly competitive environment, the management of our own airspace with attention to new developments is a strong asset that we should not let go of. ”

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