Digital Sky Challenge winners share vision for better air travel

The winners of the Digital Sky Challenge, which imagines solutions to the challenges of modern aviation, were announced during an awards ceremony at the SESAR Innovation Days on 4 December in Athens.
Jointly organised by the SESAR JU & ACI EUROPE and hosted by Athens International Airport, the Digital Sky Challenge took place on 2-4 December in a dedicated airside facility of the airport.

Participants included 52 young tech-talents from 11 European countries competing in 12 teams to create prototype solutions for three aviation challenges:

  1. Streamlining the passenger experience
  2. Improving the environment
  3. Enhancing safety

Industry partners working with the young innovators included Airbus, Air France, Avinor, BeMyApp, CANSO, EASA, EUROCONTROL, Founda.tion, Frankfurt Airport, Frequentis, Groupe ADP, IATA, Innaxis Research Institute, Honeywell, Lufthansa, Météo-France, Météorage, MetSafe, OpenSky Network and SITA.

The teams pitched and demoed their solutions to a distinguished judging panel comprised of Giancarlo Buono, Regional Director Safety and Flight Operation for the European region IATA; Léopold Viroles, Data4Safety Lead Analyst EASA; Maria Mavrogeni, Digital Marketing Specialist Athens International Airport; Miriam Le Fevre, Programme Manager COOPANS/SESAR JU; Nicolas Warinsko, General Manager of SESAR Deployment Manager; and Philippe Merlo, Director European Civil-Military Aviation EUROCONTROL.

The judges selected the winning teams based on four criteria: level of innovation, business value, design and overall quality of the prototypes.


The winning team in the passenger experience challenge was Innov’ATM, who came up with an innovative app to reduce the stress of travelling while improving airline punctuality. The app helps to track passengers (with their consent) so that airlines, airports and ATC know where they are. The judges found that these offers clear benefits which are marketable and doable.

The Innov’ATM team was awarded a cash prize of €2,000 by Athens International Airport together with other prizes, including flight tickets worth of €2,500 awarded by Air France; 1-day flight simulator in Frankfurt Airport (furnished by IATA); 5 mini Google homes from MetSafe; tickets to the annual OpenSky Workshop from the OpenSky Network; 1-month hosting at Found.ation’s headquarters in Athens and mentorship–onsite and/or mobile from Found.ation, an invitation of one team member to the CANSO ATM Gala dinner on 11 March 2020 in Madrid, and invitation of all team members to present the winning solution at the CANSO booth during the 2020 World ATM Congress.


The winning team of the safety challenge was JBM. Despite having no aviation background, the winning team successfully developed from scratch a safety-net capable of analysing distances between aircraft in order to alert of and thus avert potential incidents.

Using algorithms on data from ADS-B radars and historical data of incidents, they detect safety incidents and will ultimately be able to predict similar incidents and to avoid them. They will offer this data to ANSP’s as a Service.

They were awarded a cash prize of €2,000 by Athens International Airport and €2,000 by ACI EUROPE together with other prizes, including €2,500 Miles & More related promotion codes and worldshop vouchers from Lufthansa; an invitation to the 2020 High-Level Conference on Environment on 28 April in Brussels (with expenses covered by EUROCONTROL); 1-month hosting at Found.ation’s headquarters in Athens and mentorship –onsite and/or mobile (Found.ation), and invitation of one team member to the CANSO ATM Gala dinner on 11 March 2020 in Madrid and invitation of all team members to present the winning solution at the CANSO booth during the 2020 World ATM Congress.


The Environment challenge award went to Eco-Travellers. The team developed a tool that allows passengers to select the best and most green mobility option, integrating multiple modes of transport. The tool took into account existing systems and carbon offsetting schemes.

They won a cash prize of €2,000 from Athens International Airport and other prizes, including Amazon vouchers worth of €2,500 from SITA; dinner in Vienna to present the solution to Frequentis Management Team, with all expenses covered by Frequentis; tickets to the SAFE 360° Conference (EASA); 1-month hosting at Found.ation’s headquarters in Athens and mentorship –onsite and/or mobile (Found.ation) and invitation of one team member to the CANSO ATM Gala dinner on 11 March 2020 in Madrid; and invitation of all team members to present the winning solution at the CANSO booth during the 2020 World ATM Congress.


Honeywell and Airbus selected the JBM team, winners of the Safety challenge, for a special recognition award. They were impressed by the novelty and usefulness of their separation management tool. Innaxis gave a special recognition to AerLabs for its AI-based solution that forecasts weather disruption in order to enable airlines to better access the probability of making flight cancellations.

Pictured from left: Mr Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE; Mr Florian Guillermet, Executive Director of SESAR JU; Dr. Yiannis Paraschis, CEO of Athens International Airport.

“It was truly inspiring to see how much innovation could be achieved in only 48 hours,” said Florian Guillermet, Executive Director of SESAR JU said. “It clearly demonstrates the amazing talent pool that European aviation has at its disposal. Industry is already expressing an interest in the solutions so I am confident that this is not the end but the beginning of an exciting journey for our winners!”

“Our highest respect to the winning teams of the Digital Sky Challenge. They gained the admiration of the jury, but they also attracted the interest and attention of highly important aviation stakeholders, with the degree of innovation, and overall quality of their solutions,” said Dr. Yiannis Paraschis, CEO of Athens International Airport. “We feel extremely proud that Athens International Airport was the first airport site to host the Digital Sky Challenge and indeed privileged to have been able to contribute to the ‘reinvention’ of aviation, through this dynamic and innovative 48-hour ‘digital sprint’ that united the aviation industry on our premises.” 

Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE added: “Hats off to the winners of the Digital Sky Challenge for delivering in just 48 hours truly innovative solutions that can help advance airport operations – with tangible benefits for passengers, the environment and safety. I have been truly impressed by the agility and creativity of Innov’ATM, JBM, Eco-Travellers and AerLabs. I hope their solutions will soon make their way into fully developed and marketed tools and wish them every success for the future.”   

The solutions generated by the participating teams are now open for further development.


As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky initiative, SESAR aims to modernise and harmonise air traffic management in Europe. The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) was established in 2007 as a public-private partnership which pools the knowledge and resources of the entire ATM community in order to define, research, develop and validate innovative technological and operational solutions.

The SESAR JU is also responsible for the execution of the European ATM Master Plan which defines the EU priorities for R&D and implementation.

Founded by the European Union and Eurocontrol, the SESAR JU has 19 members, who together with their partners and affiliate associations will represent over 100 companies working in Europe and beyond. The SESAR JU also works closely with staff associations, regulators, airport operators, airspace users and the scientific community.

Marisa Garcia

After working for sixteen years in aviation, specializing in aircraft interiors design and aviation safety equipment, and getting hands-on with aircraft cabins in hangars around the world, Marisa Garcia turned her expertise into industry insight. She has been reporting on aviation matters since 2014. Every day, she's putting words to work.

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