ESA selects Arthur D. Little to explore satellite communications potential

18 January 2021 4 min. read

Arthur D. Little has been enlisted to research the cutting edge of satellite communication (SatCom) technology, following a new partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA). The management consulting firm will examine SatCom applications in transport, security and innovation.

Around 2,000 artificial satellites currently orbit Earth, transmitting voice, video and digital data to and from myriad touch points on the ground – all of which combines to form the field of SatCom. With space technology on the charge, SatCom has a larger role than ever to play in daily life, and Arthur D. Little has been commissioned to take a closer look. 

“It is the right time to assess the evolving demand for SatCom solutions, and develop a next generation SatCom capability that can leverage these major technological breakthroughs to the benefit of the European society and economy,” noted Matteo Ainardi, Head of the Aerospace & Defence Competence Centre at Arthur D. Little.

Arthur D Little - Areas that satellite comms will help in the future

On the consulting firm’s mandate are four studies under the ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems 4.0 (ARTES 4.0) programme – three of which will be centred in Italy with backing from the Italian Space Agency. The fourth will be based out of Norway, supported by the Norwegian Space Agency.

The Italy based studies fall within ARTES 4.0’s Space Systems for Safety & Security (4S) programme – set up to improve resilience and innovation capacity in digital and communications infrastructure across Europe and around the world. Working on the realisation that “terrestrial” networks are increasingly vulnerable, 4S is looking to space for solutions.

Detailed studies

First on Arthur D. Little’s list of studies is ‘Safety of Future Transport’ – an examination of SatCom applications for building safety and efficiency across aviation, maritime and railway transportation. This includes a focus on autonomous aircraft and ships, as well as automated traffic management.

Next is ‘Safeguarding Essential Services’ – a study on how increasingly digitalised critical infrastructure such as energy utilities and public media can be protected via SatCom. Lastly, Arthur D. Little will examine how SatCom can improve disaster response across police, fire, health, and search & rescue services – through the ‘Satellite Applications for Public Safety’ study.

“As terrestrial networks become more prone to failure, whether due to natural disaster or cyberattack, SatComs can support and maintain European telecoms systems. These studies will be key to developing existing satellite systems and identifying the services of the future,” noted Francesco Marsella, Managing Partner and Global Strategy & Operations practice leader at Arthur D. Little.

In Norway, the firm will conduct a ‘Port of the Future’ study – nestled within ARTES 4.0’s Business Applications Feasibility Study programme – to determine the technical and economic viability of using Earth observation and SatCom technology in the ports sector. The goal is to make port operations more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

“It is not always appreciated quite how important the maritime sector remains, with the great majority of goods still transported by sea,” noted Lars Thurmann-Moe, Managing Partner at Arthur D. Little in Norway.

“SatCom is already central to modern maritime operations in terms of communication and navigation, but there is still so much more that can be done to improve these operations, and also reduce the industry’s environmental footprint – for instance, helping to quickly pinpoint oil spillages.”

Together, these four studies will pave the way for a more active use of SatCom in business, economy and sustainability. An Arthur D. Little statement stressed that the studies will consult myriad members of the SatCom stakeholder ecosystem – spanning representatives from transport, energy, infrastructure, media, law enforcement and emergency services, among others.

“ADL is highly involved in the commercial space sector – as such, we are very pleased to be working with ESA on these studies, and look forward to applying our industry expertise to help define the SatCom-based services and applications of the future,” concluded Ainardi.