Airports are changing around the globe. New technologies and economic pressures are causing them to evaluate their operations and to become more responsive and efficient. Geographic information systems (GIS) are helping to meet that challenge, proving to be helpful throughout airport operations both inside and outside terminals and including air operations. Vector1 Media editor Jeff Thurston interviewed Terry Bills, Transportation Industry Manager (left) and Ian Koeppel, Transportation Business Development Manager (right) of Esri about GIS for airport management.
V1 Magazine: What is the purpose of this meeting at Orly Airport – GIS for Airport Management?
TB: – When we ask our airport customers how we can assist them, a common response is that they would like to know what other airports are doing in implementing GIS. Esri hosts these user Summits to facilitate the sharing of experiences, so users can learn from each other and to take that information back into their own organizations. We have had good success with this formula over time and expect people will exchange and communicate their successes (and failures) in such a way that they help to guide others and to build capacity.
V1 Magazine: What is the current situation with GIS for Airport Management in Europe?
TB: – The implementation of GIS in European airports falls into three main categories. One group of airports has integrated it into their operations and management, and is doing an excellent job. A second group is not involved at all, has not heard much about it and usually has few or no operations involving GIS. A third group, the largest, has begun to implement GIS in different ways. This group has a broad range of applications running, but not what I would characterize as an enterprise implementation.
Meetings like this help these agencies to meet and discuss common issues. We have often connected individual airports through webinars, like Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in the U.S. to learn about their implementations, thus addressing questions, issues and concerns from a demonstrated similar experience. The idea here is to achieve connection “to the power of 10″ so to speak – bringing together a large number of airports and helping them to grow from each other’s experiences.
V1 Magazine: In our publication we see a lot of activity about airports in Asia. Will this event connect to those people?
TB: – Yes, Asia is a hotbed of activity in terms of airport growth, but not necessarily in GIS. Most airports in the U.S. are now using GIS in a comprehensive way and are usually aiming at Enterprise GIS. Europe is catching up in many respects, with many on the pathway to becoming more enterprise-like. I have not seen that trend in Asia as much, with a few exceptions (like Beijing and Perth). GIS for airport management is much less common in Asia, even in some of the more advanced airports in the region.
V1 Magazine: People tend to see the big airports, but today’s presentations clearly demonstrate that hundreds and hundreds of smaller airports contend with the same issues and have similar needs. How do you address that?
TB: – Yes, Norway is a good example where the national civil aviation administration (Avinor) is involved trying to pull all the smaller regional airports together through the development of a comprehensive integrated system for airport management. Almost all airports have to meet a common set of requirements from ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization) related to noise and obstruction analysis, and electronic airport layout plans among others, that are conducted with GIS. So more and more, airports will be implementing GIS for these requirements, and using that as a starting point to more comprehensive implementations.
IK: – The civil aviation administration of Spain (Aena) has implemented modules of its SIGRA enterprise GIS in each of the 47 airports of its network. That includes the small airports of the Canary and Baleares Islands, which use modules including real estate & cadaster, concessions & retailing, intelligent networks and administration. The mid-sized Brussels Airport in Belgium has recently replaced its desktop-based ‘Airport View’ GIS with a server-based GIS bringing together a common set of spatial data and applications, to support decision making throughout the airport enterprise.
V1 Magazine: How about 3D GIS in airport management, are there many involved in using this?
TB: – This is an issue that we hear about in a number of the larger US and European airports, as well as from some of our business partners. Increasingly the designs of new airport terminals involve integrated 3D building information models (BIM). A key advantage to this approach is that many of the conflicts are addressed during the planning stages, resulting in fewer change orders as construction proceeds downstream. Since most people recognize the value of BIM, the trend is toward increased use of this approach.
The main issue for airports is “now that we have a BIM model of our terminal, what do we do with it?” These models are very detailed, and contain much more information than what the airport needs to effectively manage their day to day operations. So typically the airport is interested in “extracting” a 3D model of their facilities that they can manage in their GIS, and then overlay each of their existing application areas (facilities and lease management, along with their maintenance and security management solutions onto that 3D GIS model. Each person may only need specific parts of the model to do their job. The challenge is in designing a system that allows for many users to extract what they need from the model quickly and easily – one model, many users – and how 3D elements of the models come into play and may prove useful in doing their jobs.
V1 Magazine: I thought ArcGIS 10 was designed to provide all of the 3D capabilities that most industries would need to begin this process?
TB: – It does and our feeling is that ArcGIS 10 and certainly ArcGIS 10.1 begin to offer a wide range of 3D possibilities. I met with our 3D team recently and the enhancements in ArcGIS 10.1 were discussed and we think it will really begin to put 3D into the picture. The timing is right because many airports now are beginning to develop 3D models of their facilities, and we think our current enhancements are well timed.
V1 Magazine: Are there unique 3D questions that airports need to address?
TB:– The way that airports think of this is different. There is the ‘land’ side that covers everything from the terminal outward. There is the ‘terminal’ side that considers the terminal itself and everything pertaining to the terminal. Finally, the ‘air’ side looks at everything from the ramps to air traffic control. Each of these has unique 3D questions. BIM questions arise in the terminal operations, Flight path and take-off / landing questions in 3D arise in the air operations. And, land management may consider environmental questions concerning the land base such as drainage and so on.
V1 Magazine: In what ways does GIS change airports? What spark causes something fundamental to alter the course?
TB: – In the US, we have the next generation of air traffic control (NextGen) which requires airports to submit a range of GIS information to the FAA. This information is needed to help implement a more advanced (and efficient) air traffic control and navigation system. In a recent presentation from the Executive Director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, he was very clear about the need for much more significant geographic information (some of it real time) that will be required to effectively run a modern airport.
Airports will need to integrate real time weather, flight tracking, real time traffic information among others, all required to help deliver a common operational picture that will allow airport managers to make decisions in real time. This means airports in the future will need to provide more real-time data exchanges and across regions in a seamless manner. A platform that enables this level of exchange and connectivity is important for making this happen. There aren’t many airports at this stage yet, but it is coming.
IK: – In Europe, the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative led by EuroControl is a collaborative project to optimize the European airspace. This program, to be integrated and harmonized with NextGen, requires active involvement of airports as providers of infrastructure and services on the ground. Last year we saw the huge impact of closing large portions of European airspace due to volcanic ash.
Airports were completely unprepared for a crisis of this magnitude. GIS technology can help airports not only to better plan for and respond to such challenges, but can also bring a broader regional approach to decision making in times of crisis. The GIS user community is actively involved in standards activities such as the European Union’s INSPIRE initiative, and in developing common data models and templates for airports in a broader perspective which includes connectivity to other transportation networks and facilities.
V1 Magazine: I can remember the Iceland ash event. Each day in Berlin we would read about the ash around the UK mostly. But the skies were clear above us and we still could not fly, even going south.
TB: – And that is the real issue which real-time data will hopefully provide answers to. More integrated airport systems based on real time data flows will allow for finer decision making. In that case Berlin airports may then be able to make decisions according to more localized geodata information. That is the next generation of traffic control. But it also extends to other forms of transportation, like rail and water travel also.
V1 Magazine: Are transportation networks changing in these kinds of ways?
TB: – The current air traffic control system changes very slowly. They have a multitude of security and safety regulations and concerns to address as they adapt and change. All of this takes time. New developments are beginning to transform airports and other networks. Airports are increasingly beginning to think of themselves as the next generation of transportation “networks” after railroads and highways.
The greater speed of these networks, changes in global supply chains, and the creation of truly global networks between airports all lead to the notion of global air networks. This is having significant impacts on these regional economies. Airports are beginning to understand how their role is significantly changing. They are becoming the engines of growth in the surrounding regional economies, and centers of new logistics hubs based on global high speed delivery. As such, airports are becoming much more important parts of our national infrastructure, and will need to be managed differently. That is where GIS can make a significant contribution to these airport managers.
IK: – Another impetus for change amongst airports is the move to privatization. Airports are challenged to deliver better quality services around the clock, while producing positive returns on investment (ROI) for shareholders. Government operated airports must also closely manage assets to deliver ROI. Another key issue is multi-modality in transport management. More than ever before airports are “gateways” linking travellers across air, road, rail and water transport networks.
The connectivity and efficiency of those links has a direct impact on consumer’s itinerary selection. Particularly in Europe travellers have a choice not only of which airports to use, but also to connect via rail, bus or ferry. Airports are facing fierce competition and must engage new technologies to help to make their facilities the nodes of choice. A case in point is Manchester Airport, which uses GIS extensively, from analyzing transport interoperability across the UK, all the way down to managing individual runway lights to operate its facilities successfully.
V1 Magazine: How will airports and rail compete then?
IK: – In Europe transport policy initiatives seek to balance the modes of how people and goods move. The idea is to offset over-reliance on increasingly congested motorways by developing the air, rail and seaport & waterway networks. Until recently the shipment of fresh salmon from Norway to Rotterdam was entirely via road. Bring, a shipping subsidiary of Norwegian Post now uses a direct rail route to deliver refrigerated goods to meet objectives to reduce its CO2 emissions.
For air freight to be competitive airports must operate differently. In the US FedEx ships live Maine lobsters via air freight across the continent. A key to success is how well airports, railyards and shipyards can handle through put. For passenger transport in Europe rail has the advantage of connecting city centers without the hassle of security delays and long road trips. Airports can overcome those challenges by reducing delays through security checkpoints, and creating more efficient connections to city centers. GIS plays a role in managing movement of people through terminals, and journey planning for efficient ground transport connections.
TB: – Can anyone tell me that Heathrow, Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle airports do not compete with each other? Each aims to be the best and to act as a key hub to passengers and business. One of the ways to win this race is to improve airport services. Studies show that long lineups of passengers in security and ticketing mean that revenue is lost from retail areas – people are not available to use the full airport. That inefficiency costs millions of dollars yearly and impacts competitiveness since those costs are passed on to airlines and others.
V1 Magazine: Do airports have to comply with the INSPIRE Directive in Europe?
IK: – Yes they do. The directive requires airports to survey obstacles for aviation. Esri and its partners have developed tools for 3D visualization and analysis for aerodrome planning and assessment. Even more onerous for airports however are the Air Data Quality (ADQ) regulations developed by Eurocontrol for the SESAR initiative. To comply airports must incorporate QA/QC checks within their GIS. It’s through meetings like the Airport GIS Summit that GIS users can come together to grapple with these issues as a community.
V1 Magazine: I wanted to ask about PLTS. What is happening with that?
TB: – The Production Line Tool Set has been rebranded into 4 different solutions. The air solution is now called the Aeronautical Solution for ArcGIS. Several national civil aviation administrations (AENA in Spain and Avinor in Norway for example) use this solution to meet a number of their aeronautical needs. The Aeronautical Solution appealed to these agencies because they could use the same platform to meet their aeronautical and en-route charting requirements as their on-ground airport management requirements. The people on both ground and air sides use this tool but from different perspectives.
IK: – In such cases a single user found that others were asking for detailed map products once they began to see them. Usually charts were produced but were often laboriously done by CAD because of the necessary detail. However, the solution now offers these capabilities in a database driven manner, where changes are made at the database level, and the charts can be automatically redrawn. Once charts are in digital form, they can be combined with other operational data. Over time we think we will see this method result in more updated real-time delivery of charts.
V1 Magazine: Do social media tools have a future in digital airport data management? Can you describe that?
TB: – I think they do. Key areas would include checking on flight information. They also allow for better planning. I have an application for U.S. airports that knows where I am in airports and tells me all about the services within the airport I am in. It even describes the reviews of those services. Other social media applications can tell me if people I know are in the airport. Airports can couple GIS data to social media and we have tools to do that effectively.
V1 Magazine: When I listen to both of you talk, I have a sense that airports are changing and that the way I will use an airport is under great change. Is that accurate?
TB: – It is true. Airports today are looking at how best to build relationships with people. They don’t simply move people anymore, they operate as business spaces providing a full range of services that cause them to be more (or less) competitive. For security and safety reasons they need to know where people are, and to operate efficiently through connecting with people to provide good experiences. We think that will lead these airports to greater and greater use of GIS as a way of not only better managing their airports, but also to more effectively communicate with their passengers and their communities.
V1 Magazine: So – how does one go about getting a GIS into an airport?
TB: – There are often a number of ways that GIS gets started in an airport context. Usually though, a champion undertakes to promote and guide GIS through implementation to become more widely used. It can start as simple as one application, and that leads to another and another. It is not often that it starts from the top, as many airport administrators are not really focused on their IT systems, as they are often focused on other areas.
So – “what is the best way to engage a higher level champion within an airport?” This can be a struggle, but our experience is that once an airport engages, the benefits become obvious quickly and emerge to involve many other areas of airport management and operations.