Technology and innovation still key to future growth
An article by Alex Rickards - Director Accounts & Partnerships
Across the parts of the world I work in, including India, the Middle East, Europe and North America, we’re currently seeing the recovery of aviation taking place at very different speeds.
On the one hand, traffic within countries with large domestic markets, notably India and Turkey, is bouncing back rapidly, and has broadly reached pre-pandemic levels.
OAG, a provider of digital flight information and analytics, has picked out India as one of the markets which is leading the way, with March 2022 traffic levels already achieving those of 2019. This has been helped in part by the Government’s UDAN scheme, which aims to increase regional connectivity across the country.
With road and rail connections taking a long time to develop, the scheme focuses on quickly opening-up aviation routes across the country and bringing the associated economic and social benefits to the nation. In addition to UDAN, the growing middle class and on-going development of airports across the country are predicted to continue to contribute to a soaring rise in air traffic across India and the wider region over the coming years.
On-going development of airports are predicted to continue to contribute to a soaring rise in air traffic across India and the wider region over the coming years
Following the relaxation of travel restrictions, in the last couple of weeks I have finally been able to visit India again. It was fantastic to reconnect and really encouraging to see a much more positive outlook after two years of continued crisis management.
In contrast, European traffic has been recovering much more gradually and will take time to reach 2019 levels. IATA has predicted that the total passenger numbers to/from/within Europe will reach 86% of 2019 values this year, before reaching pre pandemic levels in 2024 (105%). It is inevitable that the tragic crisis in Ukraine will further slow this recovery, not only in Europe but also globally – yet another challenge for the aviation industry to face.
There are, however, some positive signs of recovery, even in Europe, and the recent axing of all UK coronavirus travel measures a few weeks ago, including the removal of passenger locator forms, was a welcome announcement.
As the number of daily flights looks set to improve, and possibly even surpass pre pandemic levels, capacity and airspace efficiency are fast becoming a priority again. For airports where traffic is expected to rapidly increase, but finances are still recovering from the pandemic, the need for low-cost options to deal with busier operations - before safely pushing to new levels of traffic, is essential.
Where traffic is expected to rapidly increase...the need for low-cost options to deal with busier operations - before safely pushing to new levels of traffic, is essential.
In anticipation of recovery, we’re currently working with a number of airports who are interested in getting plans in place, ready to accommodate forecasted traffic levels. For some of these customers, platforms such as Intelligent Approach can provide great benefits for a fraction of the cost of building new ground infrastructure. Improving the consistency of final approach spacing, even in adverse wind conditions, can help to improve airport capacity, resilience and safety, and also reduce airline fuel burn and emissions. These types of solutions can help airports and other air navigation service providers to build back stronger.
However, it’s important to note that technology can also only ever be as good as the airspace they’re being deployed within. We have been working with several airports and air traffic service providers who are keen to modernise their airspace and make it fit for potentially unprecedented levels of future traffic. Whilst additional airports in large cities and multiple runway airport expansions can obviously increase capacity, it is essential to also optimise the airspace above, in order to achieve the benefit of that huge investment. These projects take time, and we are seeing growing attention and demand to assist with this crucial infrastructure.
In another key area of technology innovation, we’re seeing amplified interest in our digital towers across the globe. Traditionally this has been focused on remoting smaller airfield operations from a larger ‘parent’ airport or a centralised hub. While this is an area we continue to see customer interest in, the business case at smaller operations can be tough to justify (especially away from Northern Europe). At the moment, we’re seeing a lot more interest from medium and large airport operators – especially where there are greenfield projects or the need for towers to be revamped.
In another key area of technology innovation, we’re seeing amplified interest in our digital towers across the globe.
With our partners at Searidge Technologies, we have developed a range of models (in fact there are 5 typical models) that are able to support a ‘roadmap’ of digital tower deployment – no matter what size of operation. It’s this flexibility and scalability of digital towers that has really come to the fore and I expect to see pretty much every airport establishing a strategy to take advantage of this great technology which can be tailored to each specific circumstance.
It’s exciting to see customers looking once more at how to bounce back stronger and there’s never been a better time to consider it, if the figures predicted by IATA are anything to go by.
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