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D4S: EU aviation tapping into Big Data

The vast amount of data available today offers a unique opportunity to shift from a largely reactive to a pro-active aviation safety management system in Europe. Big Data allow tracking systemic safety risks, identifying trends and possibly detecting weaker signals on a continuous basis. Tapping into this particular potential, a number of key European aviation stakeholders, including ECA, and EASA have joined forces in a new ambitious project: Data4Safety (D4S).

Data4Safety, in its essence, is an EU-wide data exchange and analysis programme.  The idea behind itis to provide a critical mass of data and enable data fusion to infer correlations and craft algorithms to predict critical safety risks. The data fed into the programme will ultimately range from weather and ATS surveillance data to operators’ flight data. One other major source of information will stem from the occurrence reporting gathered across Europe.

Big Data is therefore an extremely powerful tool to deliver safety benefits. But it also raises challenges: data protection is obviously a major priority for all parties involved in D4S. A failure to protect data and safety critical information against misuse and abuse would indeed have catastrophic impact on the trust of the participants and jeopardise the entire programme. It is therefore a very positive signal that adequate safeguards will be designed and set-up to protect properly these large volumes of data. The Letter of Intent and D4S Programme Charter, signed by the Founding Members at the end of March 2017, including ECA, lays down the principles of cooperation, voluntariness, confidentiality and Just Culture.

Big Data is an extremely powerful tool to deliver safety benefits but it also raises challenges.

D4S programme is still in the early stages of its Proof of Concept phase and is to yet develop its first results, proving its usefulness and effectiveness. The aim is to have the programme at cruise speed, delivering its full potential, in 3 to 4 years’ time.

The success of this major undertaking very much depends on the cooperative spirit of the aviation community as a whole. From the very first day ECA has been fully committed by bringing a wealth of experience and expertise, unanimously recognised and praised. The pilots’ community intends to continue playing its part and will contribute actively to the development of a robust data sharing and protection scheme with the aim of enhancing aviation safety.

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What is Data4Safety?

Data4Safety is a voluntary, cooperative partnership within the aviation community for the sharing and analysis of data. The ultimate and sole purpose is improving safety. The programme will organise the impressive and growing number of available data scattered in the different organisations of the European Aviation system. This will provide a critical mass of data and enable data fusion to analyse safety risks in their global context at the European scale. The programme will also organise the analysis capabilities by offering a common European platform to evaluate and mitigate systemic safety risks in a predictive matter. Read more on EASA's website.