December 2021 marks the end of the ANIMA project, a unique initiative focused on aviation noise impact management in order to improve the quality of life of local communities surrounding airports. The final projects' results generated by the research and cooperation of 22 partners along four years of activity were presented and discussed in a hybrid format with policymakers, researchers, industry manufacturers, local communities, airports and SMEs.
A total of 150 participants (online and in-person) participated in the ANIMA public events organised between 14 and 17 December in optimised COVID-19 safety conditions based on the 2G+ format (masks + vaccination or recovery certificate + daily tests). The public events included a workshop on aircraft noise non-acoustics on 14 December, a full network meeting on aviation noise research on 15 December, a high-level public conference on 16 December as well as a policy workshop on 17 December.
Final project results and needs for further research
ANIMA was built on an innovative approach, which stemmed from its unique way of associating aircraft engineers and experts on aviation regulation with specialists in urban planning, psychologists and sociologists. Together, they strived to understand the concept of noise annoyance by looking in particular at non-acoustical factors. During its years of activity, ANIMA exchanged with different target audiences. One of them is the Aircraft Noise Non-Acoustics (ANNA) group, which gathered on 14 December on the occasion of the project closure. It was an opportunity for the members of the ANNA group and the ANIMA partners to exchange on noise and annoyance indicators. They debated on possibilities to achieve annoyance mitigation through current and the future technologies.
On 15 December, the Aviation Noise Research Full Network had a fruitful discussion about the European roadmap for aviation noise reduction. The members agreed on an updated roadmap, which was consolidated with European stakeholders, National Focal Points and other International actors. Furthermore, at this event there was presented an overview of European aviation noise research projects, complementary to national and international research efforts. These discussions enabled a collective and shared vision for the way forward. The updated version of the roadmap will be available on the ANIMA Noise Platform soon.
The next day, 16 December, was followed up by a public conference that brought together speakers and attendees from the European Commission (DG RTD, DG ENV, DG MOVE, CINEA), EUROCONTROL, local communities (Municipality of Gava, HACAN – Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), airports (SOWAER – the Walloon Company of Airports), ANIMA partners and many others. The participants had the chance to learn more about the ANIMA ready to use tools, such as the Noise Management Toolset, the Dynamic Maps, the Virtual Community Tool and the AnimApp. Key findings from the ANIMA studies were presented as well, such as evaluations of previous noise management interventions and their role in improving quality of life, screening of social media discussions to capture aviation noise perception, a virtual reality tool to test the impact of new aviation procedures over local communities.
On the last day, 17 December, ANIMA partners together with various policymakers took the time to ponder on the future, considering how the novel approach for aviation noise management developed by the project can be further explored, consolidated and studied. Additionally, they reflected on new technologies and decision systems that could help mitigate annoyance and reduce impact. These exchanges served as a continuation point for working collectively towards solutions by also defining policy and research goals for the future.
The ANIMA project sought to directly improve the lives of residents neighbouring airports, whilst also supporting policymakers, researchers and airport managers to make better decisions which balance economic and regulatory requirements to achieve the best outcomes for everyone.
ANIMA took engagement to heart and throughout the past four years, it organised several local events in Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Romania. These events helped to restart a much-needed dialogue between airports and their communities, with trust at its core. Alexandra Covrig, Senior Project Manager at Airport Regions Council, the communication partner of the ANIMA project, explains the change that the project produced: “I remember that four years ago, some of the local communities we engaged with described themselves as feeling helpless. ANIMA was all about changing that and I believe that this extraordinary consortium was committed to provide solutions that are viable for everyone.”
Noise remains an important issue that must be addressed. Noise is less and less a technical issue and more and more a social and regulatory issue. It is important to keep researching an issue for which the solution is not around the corner. Future aviation visions are focused on the reduction of noise at source, but not on noise impact management. Whatever the design of the operating aircraft, there might still be noise that has to be managed. Therefore, the results of a project focusing on impact, such as ANIMA, should be further transferred and explored.