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CAAS, Thales set up S$30m joint aviation innovation research lab

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(From left) Kevin Shum, director-general of CAAS and Jean Ferré, Thales' vice-president of air traffic management at the signing ceremony.

THE Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and French aerospace firm Thales are jointly setting up a S$30 million research lab in Singapore to drive innovation in new air traffic management (ATM) technologies, both companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The Aviation Innovation Research (AIR) Lab is expected to be launched in early 2020, and established for an initial period of three years. It will be co-located with the Thales Digital Factory in Singapore to draw synergies between the two facilities, the companies said.

As its first priority, the AIR Lab will focus on the development of an Open ATM System architecture minimum viable product. This project will be a key enabler for CAAS’s next-generation ATM system.

"Through the AIR Lab, Thales will be increasing its level of investments into ATM-related research in Singapore, by bringing in domain experts and hiring software engineers, system engineers and integrators," CAAS and Thales said.

The new lab will also provide a platform for multiple stakeholders, including Singapore enterprises with complementary capabilities, to collaborate on these new technologies and develop corresponding prototypes.

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The establishment of the AIR Lab builds on the existing partnership between CAAS and Thales.

In February 2018, both organisations signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on developing new concepts of operations for ATM, as well as the next generation of digital ATM technologies. Then in March this year, a follow-up agreement was signed at the World ATM Congress in Madrid to conduct research and development for an Open ATM System architecture.

The latest agreement to establish the AIR Lab was signed by Kevin Shum, director-general of CAAS, and Jean Ferré, vice-president of ATM at Thales, on the sidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization Innovation Fair in Montreal.

Said Mr Shum: "CAAS is constantly looking ahead and ensuring that we are future-ready. The solutions developed by the Lab will enable CAAS to manage the increasingly complex ATM operations in one of the busiest and most complex airspaces in the world.

"By bringing together key stakeholders in the ATM ecosystem and providing access through an open platform, the AIR Lab will also play a key role in deepening Singapore's expertise in ATM."

Added Mr Ferré: "The AIR Lab is the first of its kind for Thales in Asia and will allow us to pioneer new technologies with CAAS in the digital aviation field."

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