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PASSENGER SERVICES Last modified on October 21, 2016

The need for speed

CEO of thyssenkrupp Elevator, Andreas Schierenbeck, discusses innovation in the airport sector and how moving walkways are getting quicker and aircraft docking faster due to new technology.

In the UK, travelling by plane has become one of the most popular methods of transport. As a result, more than 236 million people move through UK airports each year, with the biggest gateway, London Heathrow, welcoming more than 70 million passengers through its doors every 12 months. 

With this figure set to grow, it is important that we begin to think carefully about how best to keep people moving in our airports as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For as passenger numbers continue to increase, the need for quicker passenger processing and aircraft turnaround times will intensify.Technology is, of course, already playing a key role in delivering speedy transfers and providing passengers with a smooth experience from the minute they arrive at the airport until the moment they take-off.

The introduction of online check-in and e-passports are prime examples of steps already taken by airports to allow people to quickly check-in to their flight and pass through security. 

However, the real challenge occurs once passengers have passed through this point and head towards their gates to board planes; and this is where technological innovations can really be harnessed to further improve the fluidity and experience of airline passengers. 

Walkways are one such innovation that may be overlooked, but provide an essential service in moving people across vast open spaces in just seconds. And I believe that the evolution of existing walkways to true mass transportation systems is vital to ensure people continue to move within airports in a quick and efficient manner, removing the usual congestion or last-minute panic to get to their gate and releasing time for passengers to relax and enjoy the shops and other airport facilities. 

These systems will also help to make the airport experience more comfortable and seamless for elderly passengers or those with young children and prams. One such transportation system is the new ACCEL, which uses linear magnetic technology that can reach up to 12km/h – about the same average speed of a bus travelling around a city. 

The introduction of ACCEL, which greatly advances the concept of the Turbo Track previously developed by thyssenkrupp and installed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, can create a reduction of connection times in airport terminals by up to 70%.

Whilst passenger transfer within the airport is vitally important, so is the efficiency of the staff and crew responsible for the quick but safe turnaround of planes, and intelligently designed technological solutions can play a key role in ensuring this. 

This is why thyssenkrupp Elevator is working on a unique project funded by the EU with partners such as Airbus to provide automated docking assistance to aircraft, which will minimise the turnaround time whilst also reducing human error and accidents when parking and docking planes.  

Using artificial vision and machine learning, we believe that this pioneering technology will provide huge cost savings and help make airports safer and more efficient. 

Elevators are also becoming intelligent due to technology such as MAX, which is capable of identifying in real-time the need for replacements in components and systems in elevators before the end of their lifecycles, making getting stuck in an elevator a thing of the past. 

Another great innovation that has transformed the elevator industry and the design possibilities for buildings of the future is MULTI, an elevator that moves horizontally as well as vertically, providing a 50% increase in shaft transport capacity with multiple cabins running
in a loop per shaft.

Going forward it will be essential to build on these innovations whilst increasing current standards of security to alleviate any potential concerns that our overcrowded terminals may have. 

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