Airports Soar with New Technology for Safety and Operational Excellence

Michael Bettua
CEO and Co-founder, Volan Technology

One thing I’m hearing a lot about from airport operators is the stress around ensuring compliance with the FAA’s Safety Management System rule that went into effect this year.  The new rule requires airports do a better job detecting incidents, analyzing what happened, capturing data, and reporting it all to stay compliant.

More than 250 major US airports are affected, and they’re feeling the burden – especially when it comes to monitoring the outdoor areas like runways, taxiways and ramps. That’s where a lot of the riskier incidents can occur with aircraft, vehicles, equipment and personnel. Traditional methods just aren’t cutting it.

Think about it – at any given time there are thousands of people and vehicles moving on an airfield. Fuel trucks, catering vehicles, luggage teams, maintenance crews with mowers and plows, not to mention all the construction equipment for major projects. One mishap, like a lawn tractor veering into a restricted area, could be a serious safety concern.

Then you’ve got the added challenge of properly escorting and monitoring any third-party employees and contractors that need access to secure areas. Airports have to assign a human escort to supervise outside workers to maintain security protocols. But that’s extremely labor intensive, costly, and prone to errors with escorts getting fatigued or distracted.

What airports really need is a technological solution to achieve the heightened monitoring, incident detection and safety forensics the FAA now mandates. A system providing omnipresent awareness of every vehicle and person’s location, able to instantly identify potential threats and rapidly alert the right personnel.

That’s why innovative airports are deploying affordable micro-location technology across their properties. Unlike traditional GPS, cellular service or Radio Frequency ID which is too broad or costly, these new systems use Internet of Thing (IoT) sensors and small wearable locators to pinpoint the real-time geography of every asset within 1-2 meters.

One major Midwest airport rolled out a turnkey geofencing solution that works like a virtual fence-line you can construct anywhere. Using credit card-sized locators on vehicles and badges, it tracks the precise positions of all assets simultaneously, both airport resources and any contractors needing access to secure areas.

If a vehicle strays into a restricted zone, it instantly triggers an alert identifying the location and equipment involved. For safety incidents, it captures granular forensic data on who was where when the event occurred to streamline investigations and reporting.

But the benefits go way beyond just complying with the FAA’s new requirements. This operational data is a gold mine for optimizing processes, resource allocation and cost savings.

Airport teams can visualize traffic patterns, identify inefficient vehicle routings or instances of excessive idling to reduce emissions and fuel costs. They can analyze utilization of specific equipment types to ensure assets are being maximized. The data enables accurate labor forecasting and workforce planning based on proven demand.

There are a number of other use cases too, like quickly locating any misplaced or stolen asset, ensuring contractors adhere to specified routes and schedules, automating lone worker policies, and more.

The IoT approach is flexible and scalable so airports can start focused but keep expanding capabilities over time. Deploying it is quick and affordable – the locators and gateways are solar-powered requiring no hardwiring or costly infrastructure. Full facility coverage can go live in days versus months for traditional systems.

At the end of the day, airports can’t afford to rely on manual monitoring that fails to provide the rigorous safety oversight required by the FAA. The threat of violations is serious from a cost and negative publicity standpoint. Precise location data and analytics are what’s needed to identify risks, demonstrate compliance and ensure the safe and efficient operations of our nation’s airports.

This kind of innovative thinking will separate the leading airports in the years ahead. Those embracing affordable IoT solutions today will be best positioned to handle the challenges of tomorrow – whatever new operational or regulatory requirements emerge.

Michael Bettua is the CEO & Co-Founder, and Chairman of the Board, for Volan Technology Inc. Volan created the Volan Positioning System to help airport operators increase safety and security, meet new FAA Safety Management standards, lower operating costs, and increase fiscal compliance.   



This article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.