Product Showcase: Trends in ground traffic management technology
With forecasts predicting that passenger traffic will increase at a rate of 5% each year, airports are increasingly looking to cost-effective solutions that can help manage ground traffic movement. In an exclusive Q&A, Raghu Seelamonthula, Director of Products and Solutions for Airport Systems at Honeywell Airports Business, reveals Honeywell’s ground traffic management solution.
What’s the state of ground traffic management in airports today?
As air travel has become more popular and airports busier, managing ground traffic movement has become an increasingly complicated and exhausting task. Over the course of the last 20 years, we’ve seen the number of flights double at the busiest international airports. And the problem is only getting worse, with passenger traffic forecasted to increase at a rate of 5% each year. And yet, the number of runways and taxiways in airports has largely remained the same. Without the appropriate measures to manage ground traffic movement, aircraft can’t be rotated quickly enough, which results in more delays for passengers, unnecessary fuel consumption and an adverse environmental impact, among other consequences.
How are airports accommodating increased ground traffic?
Airports have few options. They could simply build more runways and more new airports, but this can take significant time and is obviously a costly option. Instead, many airports are turning to technology for the answer. Without expanding airport infrastructure, airports manage traffic by implementing optimised control procedures, which guarantee the disentanglement and more even distribution of traffic. My team is seeing growing opportunities for airports to incorporate advanced taxiing guidance systems, based on existing international standards and integrated technologies. Many of our customers are using solutions like our advanced surface movement guidance and control system (A-SMGCS) to improve ground traffic movement and enhance their capacity to handle aircraft.
What does the A-SMGCS technology entail, and what are the benefits?
The Honeywell technology, otherwise known as Ground Traffic Management (GTM) System, streamlines operations by increasing ground traffic capacity while keeping it safe. It comprises an integrated controller working position supported by A-SMGCS services like surveillance, control, routing and guidance, and includes an integration platform that can interface with multiple airport/air traffic management systems and an airfield lighting control system. This type of system gives airports more control and flexibility, along with the ability to incorporate clearancebased automation or full-automation which can result in more efficient planning, conflict-free routing and continuous taxiing without unnecessary stops at intersections. It also enables unambiguous guidance by way of taxiway centerline lights switched on based on assigned routes.
These capabilities help airports accommodate more aircraft capacity while ensuring safe and efficient operations without any passenger delays. Airlines also benefit from reduced fuel consumption, which reduces their environmental impact.
How does the technology work?
The GTM system works as an automatic taxiway information system that provides pilots with safe orientation and location information — even in instances of reduced visibility. The GTM system proposes an optimised and conflict-free route from gate to take-off, holding the point of designated runway in operation to air traffic control. Once accepted by air traffic control, the system turns on green taxiway centerline lights to enable tug driver pushback and position, to position the aircraft for taxiing. Once cleared for taxi, it indicates the optimal taxiing route to pilots by illuminating green taxiway center line lighting, which illuminates as the aircraft moves forward. If there are any conflicts, aircraft are separated by illuminating stop bar lights. As this happens, the system also provides full situational awareness to air traffic control for any possible conflicts, alarms or alerts, such as conformance or route deviations.
What are the latest examples of airports using this technology?
There are several, including Incheon Airport, a notable international hub for passenger and cargo transport in East Asia. In addition, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, another major Asian aviation hub, recently announced it will upgrade to a new airfield ground lighting control and monitoring system to safely and efficiently accommodate increasing aircraft traffic – a key step toward eventually running on the full GTM system. Finally, Dubai International, which saw more than 88 million passengers in 2017, has been using Honeywell’s GTM solution to reduce runway occupancy and taxi times, improve runway and taxiway safety, and ultimately lower the airport’s operational costs.