You may have seen recently that two of the UK’s busiest airports had significant disruption to their flights due to drones flying on or near their airfields, causing runways to be closed and flights cancelled. London’s Gatwick airport, for example, suffered delays and cancellations for days following what appeared to be significant drone activity. Luckily, there is technology out there, particularly at a military level, to deal with the threat of drones and the impact that they can have on civil aviation.
But in many ways, aside from drones, technology is also consistently helping airlines and airports to increase the speed at which they are able to process passengers from booking to boarding.
Online booking and check-in
Okay, so this isn’t really a new idea, but with access to the internet greater than ever before, more and more passengers are turning to the internet and smartphone apps to plan and manage their travel. With many airlines also integrating or partnering with car hire and hotel companies, the airline apps are fast becoming a one-stop shop for your holiday or business trip needs. With online check in and the self-service bag drop locations now at many airports, this digital shift brings an end to standing in queues for hours waiting to be checked in at the airport.
Technology has also advanced in terms of the security systems used at airports. We all know that since the atrocities of 9/11, airport security has been increased and measures tightened, and a range of technologies is now used as part of this important counter measure. From body scanners to machines that test for traces of suspicious or illegal substances, the arsenal at the disposal of many airport security teams is far more advanced than ever before.
On the receiving end of air travel, many airports are also utilising technology to deal with border security more efficiently. With passports enabled with data chips, including a biometric identifier, border control agencies are now able to automate the passport checking facility for countries that do not require a visa for entry, such as within the EU zone. This allows a larger volume of people to pass through the border more efficiently and saves personnel costs to the agencies tasked with securing the borders.
No one wants to arrive at JFK to find their baggage is halfway to Aruba, let’s be honest. In fact, the airline industry takes mishandled baggage very seriously and the International Air Transport Association recently introduced new directives for airlines and airports to better use technology to track the journeys our luggage takes through airport and aeroplanes. The IATA Resolution 753 stipulates that baggage should be tracked at the point at which it is handed over by a passenger, when it gets on or off a plane and is either passed to another carrier and/or delivered back to the passenger. This data allows the airlines to accurately track where baggage may be as well as reducing the risk of mishandled luggage. Companies such as Lyngsoe Systems are using RFID luggage tags and scanners at the major tracking points to allow airlines to see in real time where our precious cargo is.
Technology such as RFID scanners are now being installed within airport infrastructure, such as baggage drop, loading and unloading from an aircraft and baggage claim. The scanners read the RF tag that is placed on the baggage and instantly updates the database as to the location of that particular piece of baggage. The aim of this technology, working within the framework of the Resolution 753, is both to reduce the level of mishandled baggage but also to better locate and track those bags that do, inevitably and unfortunately slip through the net.
Of course, the greatest technological advancement is often within the planes themselves and you can’t help but wonder that if Google and others are working on ‘driverless’ cars, how long will it be before we board a plane with no pilot? It’s unlikely to happen any time soon, as there are still too many variables in modern air travel for which human input is needed, but we can’t help but wonder if somewhere in the world, this technology is being developed.