Airport Show wrap: The airport of the future

FINN’s editor-in-chief, Alan Peaford, rounds up what you need to know from this week’s Airport Show in Dubai.

Airports are under pressure to adopt new technologies and process to meet the growing demand of passenger travel.

Many airports are already creaking at the seams and the slow adoption of planning and developing fit-for-purpose airport sites – particularly in Europe – could cause chaos in for travellers in the future, according to the CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths.

Speaking at the Global Airport Leaders Forum held in Dubai alongside the world’s largest B2B airport show, Griffiths, who runs the world’s busiest international airport, said airports need to be acting now if they are to meet the demands.

“There is projected growth of air travel of 1.8 billion passengers from Asia Pacific alone by 2034,” he said. “It is very clear that if we carry on what we are doing in the airport sector we will not meet those growth expectations.

"There has to be a sea change in technology to make sure we eliminate the disconnected silos of multiple process."

The Airport Show with some 300 exhibitors from more than 60 countries brought many of the technologies that Griffiths is demanding. 

And there was a clear will from Middle Eastern and Asian airports to adopt them as soon as possible.

Smart gates

Already the use of smart gates at the UAE’s airports is reducing queues. “The immigration counter process has been reduced to six seconds compared to 40 seconds before and it is achieved through data intelligence as 90 per cent of the passengers at Dubai International are pre-cleared,” said Emaratech’s director general Thani Al Zaffin

Queuing to drop bags could be down to as little as 10 seconds according to German firm Materna whose sales director for Middle East and India, Achim Schmidt, put the claim to the test as part of a demonstration to airport executives.

Rockwell Collins see that the same biometric technology that works so well for smart gates can be applied throughout the airport. “You should be able to have an end to end solution from bag drop right the way through to boarding the aircraft,” said Rockwell’s Robin Springer.

“You enrol at the self-bag drop that checks the e-chip image on the passports and once it is held in the biometrics database you can be checked at all the touch points from security, unmanned lounges right through to boarding.”

Even security will be quicker. L3 has received European approval for its ClearScan cabin baggage screener which uses CT technology and advanced algorithms to deliver the highest level of explosives threat detection at an unprecedented false alarm rate. It has been on trial at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The system is designed to detect solid and liquid explosives, as well as home made explosives (HMEs), to the latest regulatory requirements, allowing for liquids and electronics to be screened while remaining in cabin baggage.

“This means you should be able to go through security screening at a walking pace”.

Airside operations

There are also other efficiencies being planned on the airfield as well.

Technology giant Honeywell unveiled its latest cloud-based smart technology that it claimed would help airports soar to smarter, safer airside operations.

The new software suite, Navitas, intelligently integrates air and ground traffic control with maintenance operations so airports can more easily accommodate growing air traffic while promoting safety and on-time performance.

Dynamic gate management which ensures you have the most efficient gate is a key part of the system.

“Just imagine you have a lot of passengers coming to a hub airport on a delayed flight and they are due to transfer to another flight, you can bring them to a closer date and save time,” said Honeywell’s vice-president global airports, Sonja Strand. “Navitas helps orchestrate the airports’ complex environments like never before, through mobile applications, dashboards and heads up displays that are intuitive.

This will delight the Dubai Airport CEO. 

“There are only two places you have to queue: The airport and the Post Office. I would like the Post Office to have a monopoly,” Griffiths said.

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