Hughes India

Connecting the modern-day airport: The runway to future


The coronavirus has infected people in almost every country on the earth. National economies and businesses assess the costs as governments explore measures to stop the virus's spread. The COVID-19 pandemic compromised the viability of many firms in the air transport sector—besides, the impact on the more significant aviation industry. The near-complete closure witnessed by the Aviation sector has been unparalleled since World War II. Many jobs are at risk, and the industry is working hard to adapt to the changes and build greater operational efficiency.

Rebuild. Revive.

After a year of limited operations and a growing burden of challenges, the sector is finally rebuilding itself. For the first time since February, domestic carriers carried over 300,000 passengers on October 9. The traffic estimates were still a tad slower than the pre-covid level of 350,000 daily passengers. However, the number signified the broader revival trajectory for the aviation sector. Festive months in India, a fall in COVID infections, and a spike in immunization have prompted a surge in domestic passenger traffic, with airlines flying around 80 per cent more people in September 2021 than the same month last year.

Covid brought along several learnings and lessons. From reimagining the schedule, building revised safety protocols, to introducing newer customer experiences - the industry experienced a recent influx of ideas. However, the changes also brought the questions on resource allocation and building greater efficiencies. As air traffic grows, airports must become more flexible, entrepreneurial, and responsive to changing aviation dynamics. Today, most airports need to serve as "multimodal" transit hubs for people, information, and trade. The goal is to make systems and processes digitally aware, networked, imbued with intelligence, and easy to access for all users.

Connectivity will become increasingly vital for airports that wish to optimize their operations, with the number of connected devices presently topping 17 billion and predicted to expand to 22 billion by 2025. That should be welcome news to airport operators, who are all dealing with some of the industry's highest operating costs. With Next-gen internet connectivity and the growing transmission rates of gigabit speeds, the possibility of a modern-day airport is near, thereby fulfilling the main goal to create an overall better passenger experience.

Though a flight delay or misplaced piece of luggage may cause inconvenience to travelers, AI, big data, and machine learning-enabled by uninterrupted connectivity can help airports predict and fix such issues before they become major customer service concerns. Ground operations, security checks, runway surveillance, luggage handling, and building management are just a few areas where intelligent airport networks could help alter the passenger experience. For example, beacons and proximity insights will assist expedite processes, while timely data and analytics will increase visibility. Intelligent, wireless networks performing on high bandwidth will be at the center of it all.

Connectivity at the Core

Today, primary air transport IT providers leverage satellite communications tools to overhaul network availability across airports and automate the process to bring transparency and boost operational efficiency. Companies like Harris Corporation are assisting the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to deploy Satellite-based technologies in its vision of developing futuristic telecom infrastructure- an advanced nationwide aviation communication infrastructure for improved Air Traffic Management.

SITA, a leading specialist in air transport communication and information technology (IT) solutions, has recently invested in developing advanced connectivity solutions (uninterrupted 4G/LTE services) to serve the growing connectivity requirements across 49 airports across the country while also enhancing operational excellence. The recent investment aims to ensure minimum bandwidth of 2Mbps, with best-in-class 4G/LTE coverage, addressing on-demand bandwidth requirements while optimizing costs by utilizing multiple transport technologies in an application-driven network, with real-time visibility and control over the network. The improved bandwidth has enhanced SITA's existing platform operations, including baggage management, passenger processing, airport desk management, and other services. Such investments will significantly enhance airspace and airport operations and enable the path towards futuristic network infrastructure.

IoT and reliable connectivity will expand dramatically as passenger demand increases and airport fleets grow in size, effectively transforming the aviation and aerospace sector as we know it. With timely alerts and mobile baggage tracking, IoT will personalize passenger experiences better. With the deployment of predictive maintenance updates and improved data analysis, operational efficiencies will substantially improve as IoT adoption develops.

As airlines and operators focus on delivering new levels of comfort, personalization, and passengers reflect the growing inclination for digital experiences, the role of connectivity will only grow significantly. For the successful revival of the sector, airport operators need to consider next-generation development formats that put connected experience at the core.

Read the article originally published on The Times of India here.