Future Flight Challenge

Fly to Plan Project

Rockport Participation in the Fly2Plan Project

Rockport Software is proud to announce our participation in a winning consortium working on a project under Innovate UK's Future Flight Challenge. The consortium, led by Heathrow Airport, includes operational experts from airports, airlines and air traffic management, as well as technology and academic organisations. The Fly2Plan project aims to support the emerging information exchange requirements in an airspace environment where new modes of air travel, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, are being operated in increasing numbers.

June 2022 news update: Cranfield University has published a white paper based on work undertaken during the Fly 2 Plan project. Read The development of an uncrewed traffic management (UTM) system using cross-cutting technologies: Distributed ledgers and artificial intelligence on the Cranfield University website.


Fly to Plan - Supporting the Aviation System of the Future

Fly2Plan is one of the projects under Innovate UK's Future Flight Challenge, an R&D programme aiming to develop greener ways to fly, to encourage development of new modes of air travel and to support the airspace and aviation systems of the future.

The UK airspace will look very different in the coming years, as new airborne vehicles are deployed, including unmanned aerial vehicles, flying taxis and delivery drones. Air Traffic Management of this future airspace will rely on the efficient exchange of information between a more diverse range of organisations than at present and will require new models of trust to secure and authenticate that information. The volume and complexity of flight information produced and exchanged by the aviation industry will rise dramatically as the utilisation of the future airspace increases. Meaningful information exchange, based on international standards such as the ACRIS Semantic Model and the ICAO SWIM Concept, will be crucial for the safety, security and efficiency of airborne operations.

The Fly2Plan project, awarded to our consortium in November 2020, looks to support such information exchange requirements by building a blockchain-based system to facilitate the trusted exchange of aviation information in a secure and scalable manner. The distributed model of trust and data quality assurance provided by distributed ledger technologies are necessary for the safety critical airspace environment. The Airports Council International (ACI) ACRIS Semantic Model provides a consistent and integrated view of airports and the wider aviation ecosystem. The ACRIS Semantic Model also facilitates the rapid prototyping and deployment of systems and applications to support the demanding requirements of current and future airspace users.

"With substantial depth of expertise and experience in the aviation industry, information exchange and the ACRIS Semantic Model, Rockport complements the great strengths and expertise of the consortium members, both with the information model and associated information exchange models. We look forward to working closely with our consortium partners to deliver on the objectives of this exciting initiative."

Bob Logan, Managing Director, Rockport Software


Rockport Involvement in Fly to Plan

Information Modelling

The Fly 2 Plan project recognizes the need to develop an information model to support the exchange of information between ATM and UTM stakeholders. As an international standard used by airports and aviation stakeholders across the world, the ACRIS Semantic Model was chosen as the basis of this new Fly 2 Plan information model.

During the Fly 2 Plan project, Rockport Software has provided significant information modelling expertise:

  • Information Model: developed a new information model, based on, and extending, the ACRIS Semantic Model to cater for the specific requirements of Fly 2 Plan
  • Use case modelling: using the project use cases and stakeholder interviews, developed the conceptual model, including alignment and clarification of terms used in each of the ATM and UTM domains.
  • Standards analysis: developed the information model to ensure alignment and compatibility with existing aviation information models (such as AIDM, AIRM) and message exchange standards, such as those defined by IATA and ICAO for flight information messaging.
  • Modelling: developed a logical information model that integrates the ATM and UTM domains of operation, with significant changes to support drone operations and geo-spatial definition of routes.
  • Schema development: developed a physical data model representation of the Fly 2 Plan logical information model. Generation of message and storage schemas (JSON/XML) based on this data model.
  • DLT/Blockchain schema: developed the the JSON data model schema based on the information model used in the Fly 2 Plan distributed ledger for asset storage.
  • Update international standards: provided feedback to ACRIS to ensure the Fly 2 Plan model enhancements were incorporated back into the next update to the published ACRIS Semantic Model as a benefit to the industry.
  • Hosting: provided a cloud based instance of the Fly 2 Plan information model to support collaborative development in the agile project development methodology used in Fly 2 Plan.

Distributed Ledger / Blockchain Deployment

The distributed application developed by the Fly to Plan project team relies on Hyperledger Fabric blockchain technology deployed using Kubernetes. To lower the barrier to entry and make the solution more accessible, especially to smaller participants within the envisaged network, much of the technical complexity of Kubernetes and Hyperledger Fabric blockchain needs to be relegated to the background.

The Hyperledger blockchain automation framework (BAF) was identified as meeting this objective using the automation tool Ansible to handle the cloud environment setup, blockchain network and chaincode deployment directed by a single master configuration file. During the course of the project, Hyperledger BAF evolved to become the Hyperledger Bevel project.

Rockport Software provided technical expertise in the use of Kubernetes and Hyperledger Fabric deployment:

  • Rockport Software provisioned Hyperledger Fabric network test deployments of the Fly 2 Plan distributed application in cloud platforms provided by multiple cloud vendors using customized Hyperledger Blockchain Automation Framework scripts.
  • Rockport Software contributed code to Hyperledger BAF (initially a Hyperledger lab) to support the scripted deployment of a Hyperledger Fabric network to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure's Kubernetes cluster offering, which was not already supported by Hyperledger BAF. As the Hyperledger lab evolved into the full Hyperledger Bevel product, Rockport Software contributed code to this open source project and merged the new capabilities into the develop branch of the Hyperledger Bevel source code for future releases.

Distributed Ledger Cybersecurity Testing

The distributed nature of the blockchain solution developed during the Fly 2 Plan project provides a secure, scalable and trusted environment in which to exchange aviation information. A critical part of the Fly 2 Plan project was to assess the cybersecurity threat environment in which such an application would operate. Oxford University and Cranfield University focused on identifying cybersecurity threats and developing artificial intelligence algorithms that could be used to identify malicious activity within the distributed ledger network.

Rockport Software participated in a series of cybersecurity tests conducted against the Fly 2 Plan application.

  • Definition and configuration of test scenarios to support realistic ATM and UTM operations.
  • Generation of test messages compliant with existing IATA/ICAO/UTM message standards to meet the agreed test scenarios.
  • Cybersecurity testing support - definition of test plans, test scenarios and test messages. Coordinated execution of tests with sample messages and analysis provided for inclusion in the test reports and cybersecurity threat assessment report.
  • Test execution support to publish the scenario based messages, acting as a third party data provider.

Prototyping and Software Development

Rockport Software provided technical expertise to develop test support utilities for the Fly 2 Plan project:

  • Rapid development of a configuration-driven test scenario utility in which ATM/UTM test scenarios are defined and compliant test message sets generated.
  • Rapid development of a cloud-hosted message simulator to act as a configurable third party to publish ATM/UTM test messages to the Fly 2 Plan network.

Fly to Plan Whitepaper

June 2022 news update: Cranfield University has published a white paper based on part of the work undertaken during the Fly 2 Plan project.

Fly 2 Plan White Paper

The new report sets out some of the findings from the Fly 2 Plan project, including how collaboration will increase automation and autonomy in Air Traffic Management and how Distributed Ledger Technologies, similar to blockchain, will improve safety, cybersecurity and interoperability.

Read the Cranfield University press release Revealed - how to make the hybrid airspace work on the Cranfield University website

Read and download the white paper The development of an uncrewed traffic management (UTM) system using cross-cutting technologies: Distributed ledgers and artificial intelligence on the Cranfield University website

For More Information

Please contact us if you wish to know more about this project.

Additional information can also be found from the following resources

Fly to Plan Consortium Members

Rockport is proud to be working with the members of our consortium: Altitude Angel, Cirium, Consortiq, Cranfield University, Digital Catapult, IAG, IBS Software, Innovate UK, NATS, SITA, TEKTowr, and University of Oxford

Fly 2 Plan Consortium Members