Industry News




Fraport and HAT trial hybrid aerial vehicle at Frankfurt Airport

German airport operator Fraport has partnered with start-up Hybrid-Airplane Technologies (HAT) to trial a hybrid aerial vehicle at Frankfurt Airport.

The trial consisted of a small helium-filled hybrid aerial vehicle, H-Aero, which floated through Halls D and E at Terminal 2 for four days between 28 and 31 October.

The aerial vehicle is made of a helium-filled, lens-shaped balloon that helps it stay in the air. It has wings that can direct it in all directions.

Aiming to reduce the burden on airport officials to check terminals, the vehicle uses images to allows employees to survey the area while staying at their desks.

During the trial, H-Aero followed a specific route in the terminal and employed a thermal imaging camera to transfer images of the terminal.

In the future, H-Aero will be capable of reporting any issues using AI technology, the companies said.

Fraport airside and terminal management, corporate safety and security head Alexander Laukenmann explained: “The use of innovative technology plays a pivotal role in all areas of airport operations, including ensuring traffic safety in our check-in halls.

“At Frankfurt Airport, we are already experimenting with technologies that many still consider to be in the realms of science fiction. The H-Aero innovative flight concept is a good example. We believe it has various potential applications that we will continue to investigate in the next stages.”

Hybrid-Airplane Technologies CEO Csaba Singer said: “Innovation has a real chance of success only if it is used to simplify processes and only if passengers and employees see it as socially acceptable.

“We have successfully demonstrated that both are possible over the past four days in Terminal 2 of Frankfurt Airport in what was a genuine world first.”

In July, Fraport agreed to deploy FlightAware’s real-time predictive technology at Frankfurt Airport to further optimise flight operations.




Miami International Airport commences central base upgrade

Miami International Airport (MIA) has started work on its Central Base Modification and Expansion Project.

The project includes upgrading the 34.1-acres of asphalt and concrete pavement. Constructed in the 1960s, the pavement currently serves as a parking and movement area for aircraft near Concourse D.

The enhancement work is aimed at maximising aircraft parking locations, supporting larger aircraft and improving stormwater and lighting in the area.

MIA director and CEO Lester Sola said: “This is the first of many groundbreakings we will be hosting in the coming months and years, as we move forward with our new capital improvement programme.

“MIA grew by one million passengers in 2018 and is on track for another record-breaking year in 2019, which makes modernisation projects like the Central Base renovation all the more essential to accommodating our growth and maximising our efficiency.”

Of the $76.2m cost for the project, the Federal Aviation Administration will provide 75%. The Florida Department of Transportation will contribute 50% of the cost.

By 2040, the airport is expected to handle 77 million travellers and over four million tonnes of cargo.

The Central Base gate forms part of MIA’s $5bn improvement programme to meet the requirements of future passenger and cargo projections.

The project is expected to be completed by December 2022.

Last month, MIA revealed its new $324m automated baggage screening system in the south and central terminals.

In May, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at MIA was equipped with a computed tomography (CT) scanner.




Auckland Airport launches app update for real-time travel information

New Zealand’s Auckland Airport has launched the latest version of its app, offering users real-time travel information from home to the departure gate.

The updated app has been designed to take the stress out of airport departures and arrivals. It creates a personalised travel itinerary, beginning from leaving home and includes the expected time taken to clear customs and aviation security.

Auckland Airport technology and marketing general manager Jonathan Good said that it is the only app to deliver information about the complete journey, from home to flight departure.

Good said: “It’s a real step-change in the functionality of our app, with stress-free trip planning at its heart. We’ve had an app since 2013, but we knew we needed to move beyond flight information and parking bookings to an integrated solution built around customer needs.”

As with previous versions, the app’s latest upgrade contains functions such as carpark booking and shopping at The Mall.

This can now be linked into the personalised itinerary when signed into the airport with Strata Club, its no-cost loyalty rewards scheme.

Prior to the new app’s launch, the airport talked directly to passengers to understand their requirements.

Good added: “As we get underway with Auckland Airport’s massive programme of infrastructure development both in and around the terminals, the app will be an important tool to support a stress-free journey.”

In April 2017, Auckland Airport launched a new and advanced app-based programme designed to recognise the travel choices of passengers with personalised services and benefits.




Manchester Airport to open aerozone to connect with local communities

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has announced plans to open ‘aerozones’ as part of an initiative to connect its airports with their local communities.

First set to be introduced at Manchester Airport, aerozones are on-site facilities that offer opportunities for local children aged four to 18 to find out more about how an airport works.

Aerozones are already operational at London Stansted and East Midlands Airports.

A total of 6,500 children were welcomed across the two sites last year.

With the new on-site education centre, local schoolchildren of all ages will be able to learn more about their local airport, including the career opportunities on offer in aviation.

MAG CSR director Neil Robinson said: “We are more determined than ever to ensure that the benefits of MAG’s success are shared and I am proud of the way that we play our part in providing ‘opportunities for all,’ particularly where there are areas of inequality and deprivation around our airports.”

Situated above The Station, the new aerozone at Manchester Airport is part of MAG’s ‘MAG Connect’ initiative, which aims to connect local communities with jobs at airports.

MAG’s latest Corporate Social Responsibility Report revealed that the group’s three airports contributed a combined £8.2bn to the UK economy in the last financial year, which represents a 5.8% increase year on year.

Robinson added: “At MAG, we are collaborating with partners, such as Sustainable Aviation, to develop better technology and low-carbon alternatives. All of our airport operations are all carbon neutral and we will continue to use our influence and programmes to promote decarbonisation across the industry.”




Gatwick Airport to trial different aircraft boarding sequences

London’s Gatwick Airport in the UK is set to commence a two-month trial to identify the most effective boarding sequence.

The airport will install large digital screens at Gate 101 for the trial. These screens will show passengers the order of boarding.

The trial aims to identify the fastest and most relaxed method for decreasing large numbers of passengers rushing to gates.

Gatwick Airport noted that passengers with priority boarding, those who need special assistance and those travelling with children, will board first during the two-month trial.

Modelling suggested that these methods could possibly reduce boarding times by around 10%.

In addition to data collected during the trial, the airport will evaluate passenger feedback before making its final decision.

Gatwick Airport Enabling Technologies and Digital Innovation head Abhi Chacko said: “We want to explore whether boarding by seat number will avoid queues in the gate room and when boarding the aircraft.

“Early indications are that this new technique has the potential to reduce the overall boarding time. By communicating to passengers better and boarding passengers by seat number, we also expect to make the whole boarding experience more relaxing and potentially prevent large numbers of passengers rushing forward at any stage.”

In September, Gatwick Airport launched a new information portal for aircraft noise.

Vodafone also installed its 5G network at the airport’s South Terminal.

In August, Gatwick Airport unveiled a £1.1bn five-year investment plan aimed to ensure the facility is ready for future growth.




ACI World study predicts global air traffic to double by 2037

Global air traffic, which reached 8.8 billion in 2018, is expected to double by 2037, according to a report by Airports Council International (ACI) World.

The annual World Airport Traffic Forecasts (WATF) report predicts that global air traffic will grow at a rate of 3.7% per annum, reaching 19.7 billion by 2040.

According to the report, China will be the largest passenger market by 2031 and is expected to contribute 18% to global traffic by 2040, with around 3.5 billion passengers.

After China, the US will be the second-largest market with 2.9 billion passengers, followed by India with 1.3 billion passengers.

China, the US and India will together handle around 40% of global passenger traffic.

Indonesia, which is currently in tenth position, is projected to rise to fourth position by 2036.

The report noted that the industry is ‘engaged in a high wire balancing act’ to cope with the rising demand for air services.

ACI World director general Angela Gittens commented: “There is no doubt that the future of the industry is positive with ACI’s forecasts showing passenger traffic worldwide is expected to double to more than 17 billion by 2037.

“In the short term, however, isolationist policies have fuelled a retraction from decades of progress toward greater global economic integration, which will inevitably restrain the efficient flow of people, goods and services.”

According to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL), approximately 1.5 million flights will be unable to fly by 2040.

It also estimated that 470,000 passengers will face delays longer than two hours each day by 2040, compared to 50,000 passengers in 2016.

Gittens added: “Action must be taken to address this growing infrastructure gap. Given that more than 200 airports already require slot coordination because they have insufficient capacity to meet demand, government regulators must come together with the aviation industry to ensure that existing capacity can be better utilised while facilitating new and improved infrastructure to improve efficiency and the passenger experience.”

Last month, ACI reported a 6.4% growth in global passenger traffic in 2018.




Japan Airlines to trial WHILL autonomous wheelchairs at Haneda Airport

Japan Airlines has partnered with Japan Airport Terminal (JAT) to test WHILL’s self-navigating electric wheelchairs at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Trials will commence in early November at the airport’s Terminal 1 south wing.

The autonomous wheelchairs will allow passengers with reduced mobility to navigate the airport without any external assistance.

The electric vehicles (EVs) are equipped with sensors that can detect obstructions and stop the vehicle automatically.

They also feature real-time gate and boarding updates, which will be launched in the future.

WHILL CEO and founder Satoshi Sugie said: “We have been rolling out WHILL’s autonomous Personal EVs throughout select airports, and we are especially excited to be working with Japan Airlines and Japan Airport Terminal to provide travellers with limited mobility the best service possible at Haneda Airport.

“No one should have to stress over their travel experience. We’re offering a smooth, easy, enjoyable experience through our autonomous Personal EVs, with the goal of changing how people travel in the future.”

Japan Airlines Airport Division executive officer Atsushi Maeda said: “Airport travel can cause feelings of stress for customers with mobility issues, and our goal is to alleviate these stresses with the autonomous Personal EVs.

“This pertains to the overall travel experience, not only in the airport and inflight but the entire journey from home to destination, enriching the entire experience.”

All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently started trialling self-driving wheelchairs at Tokyo-Narita International Airport to simplify the travel experience.

ANA is looking to fully implement these autonomous wheelchairs at Narita Airport after 2020.




Zamna raises funds to enhance airport security systems

UK-based cybersecurity startup Zamna has raised $5m in a seed funding round to enhance and automate airport security checks.

The round was led by LocalGlobe and Oxford Capital. It was joined by Seedcamp, the London Co-Funding Fund (LCIF) and Telefonica.

Zamna’s current investor and commercial client International Airlines Group (IAG) also joined the funding round.

Previously known as VChain Technology, Zamna uses blockchain technology to validate data between travel authorities and airlines for passenger identity verification.

Its platform attaches an anonymous token to the verified data. Using this token, different organisations such as governments and airlines can access the ‘network of tokens’ without accessing the private data of any agency.

The identity of a passenger can then be verified using this technology.

The technology reportedly led to a 90% decrease in manual checks.

Zamna co-founder and CEO said: “For airport security to successfully become frictionless through biometric capabilities, the first step is to have access to 100% accurate and trustworthy passenger data.

“Zamna is delivering on this. Built on a ‘privacy by design’ framework, it ensures that airlines and governments get accurate, trustworthy data in advance of a passenger travelling, enabling the traveller can get through the airport without multiple identity checks.”

The money raised will be used to launch its ‘Advance Passenger Information (API) validation platform’ that can be used for biometric and biographic data.

Immigration authorities and airlines have already begun using the technology for security checks.

Zamna is also collaborating with General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners (GDRFA) in UAE and Emirates Airlines to ensure a smoother check-in and travel experience for passengers.