Making Airports in Asia Future‐Ready

The Asia Pacific region continues to experience rapid growth in aviation traffic, and is forecasted to be the world’s highest growth region in the coming years.

Making Airports in Asia Future‐Ready

The Asia Pacific region continues to experience rapid growth in aviation traffic, and is forecasted to be the world’s highest growth region in the coming years.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects 7.8 billion travellers by 2036, up from 4.3 billion in 2018. Of the 3.5 billion trips to from or within the Asia‐Pacific region in 2036, 1.5 billion will pass through China. As early as 2022, IATA expects China to be the largest single aviation market. India is another emerging power‐house—even if it will take longer to mature. And nearly equal potential could be realised as the Indian aviation market continues to develop.

Aviation infrastructure is racing to meet this rapid growth. Airports around the region are building new terminals to meet the demands of air travel. Countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are also upgrading their air traffic control systems and infrastructure to track more aircraft, and increase hourly movements at the airports.

Technology and innovation are essential in building airports of the future, particularly in Asia. NATS has been one of the driving forces behind air traffic modernization. It provides creative and proven solutions for airports, service providers and other aviation businesses around the world to cope with changing demands and challenges, with the aim of increasing safety and efficiency while decreasing costs.

For example, NATS has invested in FourSight, a next generation air traffic conflict detection tool to be the successor to the current system, iFACTS. iFACTS, introduced in 2011, predicts an aircraft location up to 18 minutes into the future. Potential conflicts can then be easily identified and action taken early to avoid them. The system has helped cut emissions and resulted in a 40% capacity increase for some airspace sectors.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are also used by NATS to further grow its offerings. Recently, it has been able to predict the likelihood of potential safety events at its London Terminal Control operation by using real‐life data from 2015 to the present day. The accuracy of the results so far has been impressive, running at between 60 and 80 percent.

NATS is also working on a remote digital air traffic control tower demonstrator that uses high‐ definition cameras powered by super‐fast and secure fiber connections. A smart digital tower, equipped with a range of assistive functionalities and features, is envisioned to enhance air traffic management and safety of runway and ground operations, and increase operational efficiencies at airports across the world. Digital remote towers are being trialled in the UK and has already been tested in Australia and Sweden.

On the same front, in November 2017, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) awarded NATS a contract valued close to $7 million to develop a smart digital tower prototype. It will be tested at Changi Airport over a period of 22 months and will be the largest and most complex in the world.

The awarded contract includes the set‐up of multiple fixed‐position cameras to feed live video images onto a large video wall. This will provide a similar view to what air traffic controllers (ATCOs) currently see from a physical control tower. The trial will employ advanced camera and video stitching technologies, thus enabling better display of information. For instance, the video cameras can automatically pan, tilt, and zoom, to enable a closer look at objects and/or areas of interest.

Martin Rolfe, NATS Chief Executive Officer, said: “Singapore and CAAS are leading the world in the approach to smart airport and smart digital tower adoption and we’re absolutely delighted to have been chosen to work with them on what will be a transformational project for Changi Airport and the wider aviation industry. I believe the work we do together over the next two years will help shape how smart digital tower and smart airport technologies are applied to hub airports all over the world. It’s a huge vote of confidence not just in NATS’ operational capabilities, but also our partners at Searidge Technologies.”

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