Airports wake up to drone potential and tech-aided ways to smooth security checks

Economy December 07, 2017 01:00


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WAYS that drones can be accommodated at airports around the world are being explored along with innovations such as streamlined security procedures that will enable a single identity check of an airline passenger.

Hemant Mistru, director of global airport development and fuel at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said the group is promoting the development of technology that will help airports cope with increasing passenger demand. It calls the programme supporting such technology NEXTT.

“IATA is partnering with the Airports Council International and coordinating with the broader industry in an effort to help determine how the airport experience may change in the future and how airports will change to meet the technology-based innovations that customer will expect,” Mistru said.

“The NEXTT initiative encapsulates a new experience with travel technologies, with the concept focused on three areas: off-airport activities, advanced processing and interactive decision making.”

Mistru said that with off-airport activities, the goal is that most processes will occur away from an airport in a location that best suits the customer. “This will happen in both a virtual and physical sense. For many processes, this is enabled by digital transformation. Activities that historically required a manual check could now occur as a digital process,” he said.

“For those elements that will always require a physical interface, distributed locations throughout cities could be used. This will improve convenience for customers and alleviate pressure on processing at airports. Meanwhile, passengers can also commence their journey from these secure entry gates within the city, which provide access to multi-modal connections straight to the airport, bypassing the need for processes within the terminal building.”

For the advanced processing, Mistru said technology would be used to optimise what he described as legacy processes, with automation and robotics harnessed to handle the repetitive nature of many process. 

“Travel processes will be updated to use these new technologies, reflecting and enhancing the way we lead our daily lives,” Mistru said.

“This creates an attractive experience for all users, passenger and staff alike. The advanced processing also includes the ONE identity or ONE ID project, which requires the use of technology to capture identity data amid a robust identity management system that can authenticate the data captured.

Simpler ID checks 

“This will enable an air traveller to show their identity documents just once, eliminating repetitive ID checks at security points, border control and the aircraft gate.”

An interactive decision making process will allow airlines and airports to give customers access to real-time tracking of fights, baggage and shipments, providing control and peace of mind, the IATA executive said.

Five airports have been participating in the NEXTT initiatives, in Dubai, London’s Heathrow, Bangalore, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, and Shenzhen.

Mistru said IATA forecasts there will be 7.2 billion passengers a year by 2035, an increase of almost 100 per cent from now. By that year, the group believes there will be 70 per cent more freighters flying, numbering more than 3,000 aircraft.

 Celine Hourcade, head of cargo transformation at IATA, said drones would increasingly become an air transport means of the future for three main areas: airport operations, transport of goods and transport of passengers.

For airport operations, the drones will support both airport and ground operations. The use of drones could make aircraft inspection 20 times faster compared with procedures for commercial aircraft, reducing aircraft downtime, while the enhancing the productivity of the inspectors.

For cargo, the drones would be suitable for small-parcel deliveries. 

They could also provide special deliveries such as for humanitarian aid and disaster relief as well as medical supplies in emergencies. 

“Drones can be used by the airline industry and create opportunities for efficiencies, while reducing costs and increasing speed,” Hourcade said.

“Drones will be used by the airline industry and aircraft manufacturers are all working |on unmanned aircraft project. Drones for tomorrow's air cargo will also offer new business opportunities for new and existing air cargo players to capture new markets, open new routes, reduce costs and increase revenues. 

“Our goal is to facilitate this new of aviation by developing standards to support safe, efficient, orderly, reliable and sustainable drone operation into the airspace system.”

She said that there are various business that have been, or would seek, to trial drones to support their businesses, such as e-commerce vendors including Walmart, Amazon and Alibaba, postal operators in France, Switzerland and Singapore as well as for medical deliveries in Germany and Rwanda.