Europe is to get a new 20bn-euro (£13bn) air traffic management system to cope with its congested skies.
More planes requires better traffic management
The Sesar project will overhaul current technologies used to keep planes at safe separations, and allow pilots to fly their own routes and altitudes.
The new automated system would shorten individual flight journeys, reducing fuel use and pollution.
Growth forecasts show that air traffic in Europe is set to double by 2025, and even triple in some areas.
"Europe will have the most effective air traffic control infrastructure in the world," Jacques Barrot, vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, said as he launched the definition phase of the project.
"By making air transport more efficient, Sesar will add around 50bn euro to European growth. The project will create almost 200,000 highly skilled jobs."
Sesar is the technological part of the single European sky initiative, launched in 2004 to reform the organisation of air traffic control in the EU bloc.
It is envisaged that future management of our skies will become increasingly automated, with advanced communication and computing technologies being used to optimise the flow of planes in the air.
Sesar, formerly known as Sesame, is expected to make heavy use of Galileo, Europe's next-generation satellite-navigation network which comes into operation over the next five years.
Galileo is being built to deliver guaranteed signals at sub-metre accuracies, a performance that would support a safety critical application such as automated air traffic management.
Sesar will be deployed between 2014 and 2020. Like Galileo, it will be funded as a public-private partnership.