Pandemics and Airports – Airport Planning and Digitalisation

David Theuma / Axel Bensch

Principal Project Manager, Aviation, Surbana Jurong / Director, Public Safety & Security, Electronics, ST Engineering

Authored by David Theuma, Principal Project Manager, Aviation, Surbana Jurong & Axel Bensch, Director, Public Safety & Security, Electronics, ST Engineering

Airports are traditionally designed with the express purpose of moving people and baggage efficiently from one place to another, whilst incorporating technology to reduce costs and improve passenger experience.

With the gradual re-opening of airports globally, it is imperative to focus on maximising the capacity of facilities and enhancing the health and safety of passengers, in addition to adhering to international and local regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably led to a greater emphasis on protecting the health and safety of passengers and staff. It encompasses measures such as physical distancing, increased sanitary controls, the adoption of contactless technologies as well as a new planning approaches to passenger terminals.

With airports experiencing an initial restart, passenger volumes and capacity are expected to slowly recover, with the possibility of scaling-up and eventually returning to previous levels.

What does this mean for airport planners in designing new airports or adapting current airport infrastructure?

Aviation industry associations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airports Council International (ACI) are recommending measures such as heightening passengers and staff awareness, the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and increasing cleaning and disinfections regimes. These measures do not affect the facilities per se, but one of the key, if not the main method of reducing the risk of transmission, has been shown to be physical distancing.

Physical distancing as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be at least 1m between individuals. This has a drastic impact at processing points such as check-in, security screening, border control, custom checks, pre-boarding and boarding, affecting passenger throughput and possibly having indirect repercussions on other systems including aircraft parking stands and airfield operations. To maintain an efficient operation, whilst ensuring the health and safety of passengers and staff, these new measures should involve changes to how airports plan, design and manage their facilities.

At Surbana Jurong, as a global urban, infrastructure and managed services consulting firm with a track record of over 70 years in successful project delivery, the focus is on providing a full suite of multidisciplinary consultancy services across a diverse range of sectors through our specialist teams which comprise architects, designers, planners, engineers and other specialists. Being a one-stop consultancy service across the full range of specialist design services for both greenfield and brownfield airport infrastructure, we have identified the following areas of priority:

1) Develop a robust airport terminal capacity analysis to ensure that airport recommissioning is in line with airline schedules and is phased in an appropriate manner. Other considerations include identifying areas that can be repurposed to unlock additional capacity, as a result of the implementation of physical distancing measures.

2) Undertake an Operational Readiness assessment, similar to the process conducted when bringing new facilities online, for those elements of airport operation (processes, infrastructure and systems) that have not been engaged in standard operation for a prolonged period.

3) Reduce physical touch points and introduce contactless technologies. In a bid to reopen, airports are embracing new technologies to keep travellers, staff and the public safe.

These touchless and contactless technologies will increasingly be implemented at airport terminals and incorporated in landside and airside operations.

Digitalisation for the New Norm

Facial recognition, AI automation, biometric scanners, robotics and application of technology for sanitation and sterilization to support contactless and touchless operations are becoming the 'new norm'.

Together with the technologists from ST Engineering, we look at a range of solutions that can help address the effects of COVID-19 outbreak as well as support the future new operational requirements.

For security screening touchpoints, Tray Sterilisation using UVC Sterilisation can be deployed at the airport entrances/car-parks andpre-board areas or for gate-hold rooms as well as baggage handling at the check-in counters, CUSS check-in areas and baggage reclaim belt.

The UVC Sterilisation measures can be installed in pre-existing infrastructure to reduce the transmission of any bacteria or viruses for hand and checked luggage.

The Airport Operations Centre (AOCS) supports airports in managing pandemic related requirements and capacity challenges with a centralised platform that integrates analyses and interprets critical information from various airport systems.

The AOCS can also incorporate “dwell time” - knowing where people congregate and spend most of their time. By integrating the situational awareness pictures from both the airside and terminal with available sensor data that provides heat maps and density reports, AOCS provides airports planners and operations staff with critical information on where to step up cleaning and sanitation measures.

The AOCS also provides the ability to monitor passenger, staff or public density areas so that separation measures can be enforced across all areas of landside and airside operations and touchpoints.

Incorporating biometric scanners, the Next Gen Biometrics Identify Management Platform (IDMP) E-Gate can be integrated with with Infrared Temperature Self Check-In (iTS) / Facial Recognition Registration and Access Control systems.

The IDMP enables contactless thermal screening / distancing across all areas of the airport for passengers, staff and the public to feel safe whilst enabling the management of crowd movement and social distancing.

Robotics and autonomous solutions including cleaning and sanitation robots can also be deployed across the terminal enabling quick and effective cleaning using UV technology across high traffic zones, like toilets, F&B outlets and meeting rooms and augment cleaning staff.

The time is now or never. It is only with a lens of strategic clarity on terminal capacity analysis and operational readiness, coupled with technologies, that we can will bring about operational efficiencies, whilst safeguarding the well-being of all passengers – our utmost priority.

Surbana Jurong Group

Surbana Jurong Group is a global urban, infrastructure and managed services consulting firm, with over 70 years of track record in successful project delivery. Headquartered in Singapore, the group has a global talent pool of 16,500 across Surbana Jurong and our member companies AETOS, B+H, KTP, Prostruct, RBG, SAA, Sino-Sun and SMEC, based in more than 120 offices in over 40 countries. They include architects, designers, planners, engineers and other specialists driven by progressive thinking and creative ideas to help shape a better future. Our technical experts deliver sustainable solutions that cover the entire project life cycle from planning and design, through to delivery and management, as well as decommissioning and closure. We provide a full suite of multidisciplinary consultancy services across a diverse range of sectors that includes aviation, healthcare, hospitality, transport, water and environment as well as energy and resources. Surbana Jurong has built more than a million homes in Singapore, created master plans for more than 30 countries and developed over 100 industrial parks globally. Our tag line “Building Cities, Shaping Lives” expresses how every project or undertaking is, for the Group, an opportunity to fulfil aspirations and enrich lives. By designing and delivering quality housing, work spaces, roads, rail, hydropower, dams, underground and coastal protections and other critical infrastructure needed by our clients, we are redefining cities and transforming them into sustainable and liveable spaces where communities and businesses, present and future, can thrive.

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