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Integrated Airport Apron Safety Fleet Management

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

One of the main challenges in the apron area is that due to many different companies operating on an airport apron, each business brings in the vehicles and equipment it requires to sustain operations. This causes high levels of congestion in ramp areas, which increases the accident rate, and the chances of vehicles and equipment being misused.

By gaining telematic data on the running times of the various vehicle categories, detailed real-time statistics can be created. This would allow advanced fleet management and effective maintenance planning in off-peak periods, thus helping to reduce the number of vehicles and equipment which is considered necessary to maintain a high level of service. Actual reports on these running times would allow a good long-term budget plan, by showing how many vehicles or pieces of equipment are actually needed to support daily operations. By monitoring the vehicles, unnecessary running times can be avoided, thus reducing costs and the environmental impact. This type of information can lead to considerable savings in investment and daily operational costs, and a reduction in vehicles and equipment required, thus reducing congestion and enhancing safety in these areas.

AAS system layout
AAS system layout


AAS will develop, implement and investigate the implications of a cost and safety-beneficial high-tech system for comprehensive monitoring and controlling of all Ground Support Equipment (GSE) vehicle movements in the apron area.

The main objectives are:

- to deliver an advanced fleet management concept by maximising the utilisation of GSE vehicles;

- to enhance the techniques for cost-efficient passenger and luggage flow, and efficiency by automatically passing the information from GSE vehicles into the Resource Management System (RMS);

- to improve airport operations by reducing the number of accidents and GSE/aircraft damage repair costs;

- to deliver integrated knowledge for maintenance and investment planning to the companies operating on the apron;

- the implementation of a GPS/EGNOS-based (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System) location device;

- the system will be embedded into a mapping and positioning system, based on geo-fencing;

- the communication system will be based on different modes: Wi-Fi, GPRS.

Description of Work

The project will integrate GSE-based onboard units in the different vehicles, which can detect, by using navigation and telematics as well as a digital airport map (geo-referencing via GPS/EGNOS), the actual situation of other apron-based equipment in real time. Different technologies, like Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11a) and GPRS, will be investigated for wireless communication between GSE vehicles and the operations centre.

The described approach will identify which vehicles are to be used for which tasks, and under which status the vehicles are operating (availability, downtime, etc.). The onboard units will be connected to the RMS of the airport database in order to synchronise the flight schedules and positions of the aircraft and apron vehicles.

The system will be tested during operations at the airports in Berlin (TXL) and in Porto (OPO). Both airports are appropriate sites for demonstrating new technologies like the AAS system under realistic conditions. The underlying categories are the following:

- Porto: a new, not overcrowded, small-sized airport;

- Berlin: a medium-sized, overcrowded airport and predecessor to the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (scheduled for completion in 2011).

Expected Results

The main results of AAS are:

- maximising the utilisation of GSE vehicles at airports, e.g. baggage tugs, passenger buses, Ground Power Units (GPU), follow-me cars, stairs, towing vehicles;

- reducing costs by efficient passenger and luggage flow;

- enhancing safety, reducing the number of accidents and GSE/aircraft damage repair costs;

- return on investment in less than five years.

This will be a system with open interfaces towards existing airport operational systems and R&D activities like Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS) and Collaborative Decision Making (CDM). The project is framed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking and the Clean Sky JTI.