As is the case with many industries, expectations are continually evolving and competition is fierce.
In particular, airport management teams are facing increasing pressure, both from a passenger experience point of view and importantly from airline providers.
Both expect airports to be able to keep up with and employ the most efficient solutions for flight management and bespoke, branded passenger terminal experiences.
Ensuring both the building itself and the airside solutions are able to keep pace with these needs is an ongoing challenge.
For instance, in the UK, the most recent airport was built in the 1950s, and general working practices written in the 1970s. Of course, this is due to the huge number of regulations that come with the decision to build a new airport or even an extension.
We need look no further than the 50-year debate to build a third runway at Heathrow as an example. Nevertheless, airports, like many modern buildings, can no longer afford to be just four walls – the passenger needs to get to the plane, and then the plane to the sky as quickly and as efficiently as possible for the business to profit.
So what can be done to help?
Airports wishing to improve overall efficiency and performance would do well to turn to integrated operations and utilise the power of the Internet of Things (IoT).
What’s more, airports do not have to incorporate the most advanced technology to see a real difference. Even the simplest adoption of technology solutions can have a transformative impact on the efficiency and performance of airports.
One example of a technology solution that can be beneficial to airports hoping to optimise airport management is a control and navigation software suite. It provides airports with a secure, integrated platform, and enables them to increase aircraft traffic, safety, capacity and efficiency.
In addition to this, it can leverage data – enabling airports to effectively manage activities.
A control and navigation suite can offer a number of different services. Honeywell, for example, offers Surveillance Multi Sensor Data Fusion (MSDF), a SWIM Integration Platform, and Airfield Lighting Control (ALCMS).
Let’s examine in more detail how these technological offerings can be of help to airports.
Firstly, a control and monitoring system for airfield ground lighting means that gate assets can be managed and airports can deliver predictive aircraft turnaround. Airports have a level of control that was previously unobtainable.
With a control and navigation system, they can manage approach, runway, taxiway and apron lights. This may sound unimportant, but actually couldn’t be further from the truth. If an airport is able to control the speed of the planes through the lighting, then overload is reduced from airport traffic controllers.
The advantages do not just stop there. Pilots benefit from enhanced situation awareness, which is obviously good news for passengers. They can expect fewer flight delays and cancellations as a result – boarding and exiting the plane as happier customers.
The value of advanced surface movement guidance and control systems
There are also a number of other options available for airports wishing to become smarter, better performing buildings. It’s worth noting that airports do not always have the funds available to build expansions to accommodate a rising volume of ground traffic.
If this is not possible, an alternative option is to optimise control procedures to guarantee an even distribution of traffic. One solution that satisfies both of these criteria is advanced surface movement guidance and control systems.
An airport that embraces advanced surface movement guidance and control systems can expect to see a reduction in taxiing times and more efficient scheduling.
Runways are made safer and airports are able to detect and resolve any conflicts as they arise. Moreover, conflict-free, continuous taxiing without unnecessary breaks reduces fuel consumption.
Obviously there are financial benefits associated with this, but also environmental. There is an overall reduction in the amount of exhaust pollution and disruption caused by engine noise is cut.
Flying high with smart technologies
As airports around the world continue to strive to make processes as streamlined as possible, it goes without saying that terminal operations are also among the key contributors to an airport’s success.
An airport that utilises smart technologies has taken a step in the right direction towards optimal operations.
When adopted, an integrated technology approach can make the passenger experience more pleasant and seamless, increase revenues, ensure the plane turn is mapped, on time departures are improved, gate allocations are more efficient and runway use is optimised.
Behind this it provides a backdrop of data that can help airports work with the airlines to ensure a smoother transition at the terminal.
If recent statistics are to be believed, airports will continue to have their work cut out for them. According to IATA, global passenger traffic in 2016 rose 6.3% in comparison to 2015 — a figure the trade association reports as significantly ahead of the 10-year average annual growth rate of 5.5%.
These figures could very well continue to rise exponentially, with more people opting to travel between all corners of the world.
Coupled with the rising expectations of airport management and passenger experience, it becomes vital for airports to improve their supporting technologies with smart, integrated technology.
Only then can they turn terminals from simple vestibules, into intelligent, reactive and self-sufficient buildings.
• Andy Bordass is airports account director at Honeywell Building Solutions.