For a small island country consisting of just under five million people, New Zealand punches above its weight in terms of air transport.
Given the importance of air connectivity to New Zealanders, the government has taken a forward-looking position on preparing for the future by consulting with industry in planning for the next 20 years and beyond.
During 2018 the Ministry of Transport participated in a Future Trends workshop with IATA, covering potential scenarios and emerging themes over the next few decades.
The sessions were centered on the findings of the Future of the Airline Industry study commissioned by the IATA Industry Affairs Committee (IAC).
The Government is keen to position New Zealand as a location of choice for testing and developing innovative aviation technologies
Jointly undertaken by the School of International Futures and IATA, the report weaves the knowledge and data of trend specialists and experts from around the globe, both within and outside of the aviation sector.
The purpose is to gain a well-rounded horizon scan of changes in aviation along with the wider geopolitical, technological, economic and environmental spheres.
“Looking forward, we recognize the aviation system is entering a period of significant change and disruption,” said Richard Cross, Manager of Strategic Policy and Innovation at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport.
“The Government is keen to position New Zealand as a location of choice for testing and developing innovative aviation technologies.”
The Civil Aviation Authority’s New Southern Sky program, for instance, has laid the framework to realize safety, environmental, social and economic benefits by integrating emerging technologies into the New Zealand aviation system.
This has included plans for a wide-ranging modernization of their airspace and air navigation practices, with data at the core.
“[These plans] are resulting in improved efficiency of air traffic movements, more accurate navigation, reduced reliance on ground based systems, and improved communications,” says Steve Smyth, Director of the New Southern Sky program at the Civil Aviation Authority.
“Increased information availability will also enable more effective decision making.”
Themes from the workshop exploring potential cooperation and shared needs for unmanned aircraft were also quite relevant to the Ministry of Transport.
For them, this could open up possible applications in agriculture, surveying and even the potential transport of passengers and freight, thus improving regional connectivity.
Already a number of companies are testing unmanned aircraft and drones in New Zealand, and the government is keen on consulting with the aviation sector for how to integrate them into the aviation system.
“There is a growing expectation that small electric-powered and fully autonomous aircraft will eventually play a role transporting freight and passengers,” says Cross.
“While it is still too early to know exactly what impact these aircraft could have, they have the potential to redefine the concept of air transport and open up new opportunities to connect people between and within regions.”
There is a growing expectation that small electric-powered and fully autonomous aircraft will eventually play a role transporting freight and passengers
As a place known for its breathtaking natural landscapes, the report’s recommendations on sustainability also struck a chord with the government.
New Zealand has ambitious goals to reduce its carbon emissions and it wants collaboration with the industry to reach these targets.
Under the New Southern Sky program, the incorporation of new technologies is already bearing fruit in this area.
Cross indicated that the implementation of new Performance Based Navigation flight paths alone are already reducing carbon emissions by a calculated 4.8 million kg annually.
Overall, by examining themes and recommendations from the IATA report, the workshops proved to be a useful exercise for New Zealand in bringing forth a global perspective and industry-leading analysis.
This will then inform future discussions on air transport infrastructure and regulatory planning for the country.
“Given the vital role aviation plays in supporting economic development, it is crucial that policy makers continually challenge their assumptions and consider different future scenarios,” says Cross.
“The Future Trends study and workshops were useful in helping us understand the forces that could shape the future of air transport.”
- Click here to read The Future of the Airline Industry report, the basis for the IATA Future Trends workshops