Digital Transformation Strategies for Emerging Regional Airports
As the aviation landscape continues to speed towards digital advancement, regional airports find themselves at the crossroads of tradition and transformation.
While larger airports have already adopted digital technologies, regional airports are now faced with the challenge of embracing innovation and developing a digital transformation strategy that aligns with their unique needs.
The industry is evolving, demanding that these regional airports reassess their digital transformation strategies to keep up with current standards on efficiency, sustainability, and passenger experience.
In this article
Streamlining Operations Through Cutting-Edge Technologies
Imagine if every aspect of airport operations, from flight schedule management tools such as Airport in Cloud to baggage handling, could seamlessly scale up or down based on demand. This isn't a futuristic dream but the reality of cloud-based infrastructure.
In July 2022, Finavia upgraded Helsinki Airport and Finland’s 19 regional airports with a cloud-based Airport Operational Database (AODB) from Amadeus, making Finavia one of the first airport companies to implement a cloud-based AODB.
Amadeus stated, “Traditionally, an AODB receives data in batches from Air Traffic Control and airlines on an ad hoc basis.” But with this upgrade, airports are now provided with real-time and highly accurate flight information updates.
IoT and Sensor Integration
Sensors are the unsung heroes of modern airports. Kellton reported that Internet of Things (IoT) adoption in airports has resulted in improvements in operational efficiency, safety visualisation, predictive equipment maintenance, and hyper-personalised passenger experiences.
Dusseldorf Airport has collaborated with Deutsche Telekom and BS2 Sicherheitssysteme in 2018 to implement digital monitoring using IoT for critical infrastructure, including bridges. Over 50 sensors along the airport's access road are being used to detect potential damage, improving efficiency and preventing disruptions in kerosene supply.
This initiative reflects a broader trend of incorporating smart technology into transportation infrastructure, utilising Narrowband-IoT for real-time data exchange.
Enhancing Passenger Experience
Skip the long queues and imagine walking onto a plane with essentially just a glance. The Dulles International Airport in Dallas was the first to implement veriScan, an advanced identity verification system that utilises facial biometric scanning, boasting an accuracy rate of about 98–99%. In 2019, Emirates adopted the technology and reported having cut boarding times by 20 minutes.
Hyderabad Airport was the first in India to introduce such a system under the ‘Digi Yatra’ initiative in July 2019, allowing passengers to navigate security checks without presenting a boarding pass, promoting paperless and hassle-free travel.
Mobile Applications and Self-Service Kiosks
Mobile applications and self-service kiosks play pivotal roles in modern airports, transforming the passenger experience and operational efficiency. Self-service kiosks contribute to time savings and reduced congestion by facilitating quick check-ins and baggage drop-offs, while mobile apps allow travellers to check in, access boarding passes, track their luggage, and receive real-time flight updates.
At Dubai International Airport, passengers can easily order freshly prepared food through the Deliveroo app or website. This service leverages Dubai Airport’s high-speed Wi-Fi, known as ‘Wow-Fi', bringing deliveries directly to passengers at their boarding gates in a matter of minutes.
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Automated Air Traffic Control
As flight numbers soar, air traffic controllers are faced with increasing pressure, raising the risk of human error and calling for the aid of automated assistance.
Automation becomes crucial in easing the workload of air traffic controllers to an appropriate level. Neil May, NATS head of human factors, emphasises the impact of heavy workloads on errors, highlighting how automation can boost visibility for controllers, especially in challenging conditions like poor weather and extensive runways.
To enhance airport safety and prevent incidents involving foreign objects on runways, airports are increasingly adopting uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), more commonly known as ‘drones.’ Drones are integral to infrastructure inspections, offering a comprehensive aerial view to monitor runways, wildlife, and maintenance tasks. Such devices are also used in delivery operations, which Edmonton International Airport pioneered in collaboration with YEG and Drone Delivery Canada (DCC).
With the help of drones, regional airports can further enhance security, efficiency, and overall operations, all while saving costs and resources.
Robust Cybersecurity Measures
Cybersecurity is of paramount importance in regional airports to safeguard critical infrastructure, passenger data, and operational systems. Regional airports, like their larger counterparts, are vulnerable to cyber threats that could compromise safety, disrupt services, or lead to data breaches.
Implementing robust measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits ensures the protection of sensitive data and the uninterrupted flow of operations in an increasingly digital environment. An example of such proactive measures is the collaboration between France's Groupe ADP and ethical hackers Yogosha Strike Force. In February of this year, they conducted comprehensive security tests on Groupe ADP airports, including Paris-CDG, Paris-Orly, and Paris-Le Bourget.
As the aviation landscape continues to evolve, regional airports must embrace digital transformation to keep up with the growing demands of the industry.
Cloud-based infrastructure, IoT integration, and automated air traffic control are not mere fads but the building blocks of a resilient and future-ready airport ecosystem.
By strategically implementing these measures, regional airports can redefine their role in the aviation industry, becoming hubs of efficiency, safety, and technological excellence.
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