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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on February 5, 2015

Prized asset

Dr Matthias Alisch reflects on the use of geo-spatial technology to manage the development of the Frankfurt Airport site.

Frankfurt Airport holds many records, perhaps one of the lesser-known ones being that the airport site – one of the biggest in Europe – is the largest workplace in Germany, with 70,000 people employed within its perimeter fence.

The need to carefully manage the development of the key site is obvious, which is why operator, Fraport AG, has used geo-spatial technology to ensure that it makes maximum use of its land for the last 20 years.

Indeed, staff from Fraport’s Department of Geo-information, Building Data Management, and Building Information and Engineering Surveying are always on site capturing data about all built-up areas and assets and their associated utility supply and disposal infrastructure. 

The data, which flows into the asset database in real time, represents key elements of Fraport’s business processes and plays a strategic role for both development and maintenance activities.

Processing of the geo-spatial data is undertaken using GeoMedia desktop products provided by Intergraph Corporation.


The cornerstone of all business processes 

“We use the technology to document and manage an area of around 23 square kilometres,” enthuses Thomas Konetzki, senior executive manager of Fraport’s Information, Building Management, Engineering Surveying and Central Data Archive department.

“It allows us to keep record of the topography and record orthophotos (aerial photos) of 350,000 land parcels and more than two million items of property as well as our entire utility network, from water to heating pipes and fuel lines, even the piping of the pneumatic mail delivery system.”

The GeoMedia solution is integrated within what is naturally a highly complex IT environment, which includes MicroStation CAD, the Fraport Geoweb Portal, an in-house land database, SAP, and numerous technical solutions. 

“This enables current spatial data to be made available to all business processes,” enthuses Konetzki.

An important function fulfilled by GeoMedia at Frankfurt Airport is utility network management, which is exemplified not only by its scale but also by its complexity. 

Konetzki explains: “Fraport rightly maintains the highest safety and quality standards, which we could hardly achieve reliably without our powerful information system from Intergraph.” 

All maintenance, servicing and planning work for the various cable and duct networks relies on the data managed by the system. 

If there is a power outage somewhere on the airport, the technician can quickly narrow down the cause using the location, attribute and metadata it holds. The system also provides an indispensable support for documenting and analysing the extensive water and waste water networks.

The same applies to Fraport’s land management, whose holdings include approximately 1,037 hectares of paved and sealed surfaces – including nearly 378 hectares of runway – and more than 716 hectares of grassed area and woodland. 

Given the special operational context of Germany’s largest and Europe’s third largest airport, all necessary survey, maintenance and repair services have to be planned, executed and documented with precision. 

Missing an area of runway that has surface damage or patches that are not fully de-iced can have serious consequences, and staff must be confident such situations cannot occur. 

Even the natural environment is no exception. The grass at Fraport cannot, for example, simply be cut like a normal lawn with regular mowing across all areas. The relative cutting height and schedule has to be precisely adjusted to meet the navigation requirements of aircraft landing and taking off.

The GIS even supports the airport’s pest control expert in planning activities that help maintain aviation safety. Such applications require precise spatial analysis by responsible professionals, but this is no problem at Frankfurt.


Constantly expanding

Growth at Frankfurt Airport is inevitable, driven by the global increase in international air passenger and cargo transport and fierce competition for passengers and goods. 

After completion of construction work, Fraport uses the documentation to first match the final products against what was planned, and then publishes the data describing the new infrastructure for the management of land and networks.

It involves an incredible amount of information, whose on-going maintenance and management employs around 50 qualified staff at peak times. 

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