Facing the Future: New Innovations for the Aviation Industry

Departure Lounge

Our recent attendance at some of this year’s aviation exhibitions and events has shown us some interesting developments facing the industry. These new innovations promise great efficiency in so many ways, and affect all areas of the airport; airspace, airfield, terminal and apron.

When we visited the British Irish Airports Expo and Passenger Terminal Expo we took a look at these new innovations to find out how they would affect airports worldwide, as well as our work as airport consultants.

Low speed driverless pods

The pod system has been in operation in Heathrow since 2011, providing a link between the T5 Business Car Park and the terminal. They have been a great success, providing an efficient way to transport passengers to the terminal within Heathrow’s tight infrastructure. The next step in these developments is to take the pods off of the tracks, allowing further usage by visually impaired people and further PRMs. These driverless pods will be ideally suited to moving people and luggage between car park and terminal, or for inter-connecting flights.

Electric VTOL

A fascinating and thought-provoking presentation by Darrell Swanson, Avia Solutions, at a BAG event got our team wondering if this was the future of air transport.

The VTOL is an electric flying car that takes off and lands vertically. Successful flight tests have already taken place, leading to plans in motion for a five-seater “flying taxi” capable of vertical take-off and landing to be used for urban air-taxi and ride-sharing services.

Remote control towers

There has been a lot of press attention recently on NATS’s announcement to replace the control tower at London City Airport with a ‘virtual’ remote control tower. Arrivals and departures at the airport are to be managed remotely using live streams of high-definition video that capture the airfield. Augmented Reality will allow controllers to view aircraft call signs, weather information and flight paths to provide a clear view of airfield in once glance, even when conditions are unfavourable.

Automated parking systems

Automated parking systems, both in for valet and multi-story style, are beginning to grow in popularity both with passengers and operators. These Automated Parking Systems transport cars to and from parking spaces without human assistance.

Valet systems transport a car to their allocated space and return it to the passenger, whereas multi-story style take the car using mechanical systems. It is able to pick up the car from the lobby, transport it into the parking area and place it in a parking space automatically. The parked car remains in its parking space until the driver requests its return. More high-performance systems stack cars, much like a holding system or Early Bag Store, so that those cars that will be needed sooner are placed closer to the pick up point. The mechanical systems are also designed to minimise the area and/or volume required for parking cars, a great asset to airports.

What does these innovations mean for airports?

The innovations seem mind blowing but are never as far away as you think, and will need consideration within the entire airport, holistically, to ensure that their take up and efficiency is maximised. These are definitely exciting times for airports that want to make the most of their capacity and allow passengers even more time saving ways to streamline their journey from arrival at an airport to boarding their aircraft.