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Leveraging the Digital Twin to reduce flight delays by optimising airside operations

airside operations efficiency

Airports are relying more and more on automation technologies to offer a seamless passenger experience. At the same time, flight delays must be managed thoroughly by optimising airside operations. This can be achieved by leveraging RTLS to locate and utilise efficiently and safely equipment and vehicles required for performing airside activities such as catering, luggage / cargo handling or aircraft maintenance.

Airports are leveraging new technologies for enhanced passenger experience

The number of global passengers is expected to more than double by 2040 going from 8.8 billion in 2018 to 19.7 billion in 2040 according to ACI. Airports are in increased pressure to meet that growing demand whilst ensuring a better passenger experience. As explained by Alastair Newport in Five trends that will shape the airport of the future: “Growing traveller expectations, an ever-increasing number of passengers and a need for personalisation, means that airports have to prioritise frictionless travel.”

In this context, airports are stepping up their game in the objective of delivering a better and more seamless passenger experience. Airports have started implementing the latest technologies to help passengers through check-in, security, immigration and boarding processes. This is just the beginning and more automation is expected to help airports make better use of their infrastructure and be more efficient.

new technologies in airport

Airports such as Hong Kong, Dubai, Gatwick, Changi or Heathrow are already deploying new technologies such as:
–       Biometrics to speed up identification of passengers at security and boarding,
–       Mobile wayfinding based on AR & RTLS to help passengers navigate in terminals,
–       AI with robots to interact with passengers in a multitude of different languages,
–       Passenger Luggage Tracking through RFID and airport mobile app.

For a good example of a fully automated passenger experience, check out this video explaining the new passenger experience at Changi Airport Terminal 4 where no human interaction is needed throughout the entire process!

Flight delays negatively impacts passenger experience, how to reduce them?

However, one can have the best experience from the check-in counter to the boarding gate, but then be really frustrated if its flight has been delayed!

Flight delays are a key focus area for airports in order to handle the rising number of passengers as well as manage operations costs. Flight delays can occur for a number of different reasons but most of the time it is because of weather conditions, Air Traffic Control and aerodrome capacity.

Whilst the weather seems to be a growing concern amidst climate change, airports need to look into optimising their airside operations in the short term to extract more capacity out of their existing infrastructure: As explained in The Impact of Delays on Customers’ Satisfaction: an Empirical Analysis of the British Airways On-Time Performance at Heathrow Airport: “Delays in the airport airside area can be mitigated by optimisation of demand management, improvement of existing runway capacity, usage optimisation, and physical expansion of airside runway infrastructure.”

This is where making use of Real-time Location System (RTLS) can help airside operations be more efficient. Indeed, airside operations for each aircraft involve the coordination of different resources in a short period of time. For example, a number of different staff, vehicles and dollies are needed for catering, cargo, passenger luggage, fuelling and aircraft maintenance operations. When one of these operations cannot be completed on time because a dolly or vehicle is missing, flights are delayed, aircraft turnaround time is increased and less flights per day can be handled by the airport based on its capacity.

equipment and vehicle tracking for airside operations

Key advantages of using hybrid RTLS for optimising airside operations

Imagine a Digital Twin where airside operators could locate on a digital platform where the closest available dolly is, imagine the airport getting real-time alerts when a vehicle or equipment is missing at an aircraft parking bay, imagine being able to ensure that all vehicles and equipment are being used safely and at near 100% rate.

This can be achieved by using a hybrid RTLS solution such as Ubudu system that can track both vehicles and equipment in outdoor and indoor environments. Indeed by leveraging technologies such as GPS, BLE as well as LTE or Lora connectivity through the same RTLS software, airports would be able to locate each of their assets in airside operations to:

–       Save time finding available equipment such as dollies for airside operations
–       Increase utilisation rates of equipment and therefore reducing the total amount of equipment needed
–       Get notified in real-time of a potential delay in airside operations through automatic detection of equipment and vehicles at each aircraft parking bay
–       Ensure higher safety for driving vehicles by alerting in real-time drivers that they are speeding or that there is an unsafe event
–       Analyse flows of vehicles and equipment movement to understand how to optimise layout of roadways  

Having a unique solution and interface to manage these different use cases will help Airports to not only deploy the solution by simplifying the integration works but this will also help reduce maintenance costs of the whole system by centralising all information.

As stated by SITA in Airports of the Future: 10 Predictions for the next decade: “Airports will use Digital Twin technology to bring real-time operations to life for all stakeholders, improving operational efficiency and enhancing the passenger experience.”

At Ubudu, we already have experience working with Cathay Pacific, Changi Airport and Hong Kong Airport. If you are interested in leveraging RTLS for Digital Twin to reduce aircraft turnaround time, increase your assets’ utilisation rates and improve safety of vehicles used in your airport, feel free to contact us.