Startups Oscars and Esnah team up for an ESA-funded “Space-based services for Smart Airports” project
Andenne (Belgium) – February 20, 2019 - ESA, the European Space Agency, has endorsed an R&D project of two Belgian startups specializing in digital solutions for the aviation industry. The purpose of the proof-of-concept is to provide airports with management and optimization tools meant to optimize ground operations through the use of non-intrusive digital solutions.
Oscars, specialized in real-time decision support solutions for airport operations, created the Geo Intelligent Platform (GIP). Esnah, who develops management and security solutions for the aviation industry, first introduced the SkyLiberty solution on the market, a navigation system aimed at the general aviation.
Lack of coordination
An airport financial health and effective operation, as well as its public and business image, largely depend on its ability to accommodate as much aircrafts as possible, to streamline their movements, to observe the scheduled timetables, to optimize ground time and to make those predictable.
The slightest variance between planned landing/takeoff times and real timetables can have a significant impact on an airport’s flow sequence and on the costs incurred both by the airport operators or subcontractors and the airport itself.
The coherence and efficiency of an airport endless aircraft ballet depends on a huge variety of ground operations and support services: taxing on the runways, customs clearance, refuelling, cargo, luggage and passengers loading and unloading operations… Each and every item of the chain influences the swift workings of the planes.
Although digital tools are being increasingly used to improve operations and prevent bottlenecks, challenges still abound: collection of the right data, at the right time and place, coordination of the various airport services, identification of event causes, prediction of contingencies, efficient communications, realtime management in order to offset air traffic growth…
Process analysis and remediation
What is at stake is what’s called “airport intelligence”, i.e. a significant improvement of available tools and solutions as well as airport processes, infrastructure efficiency and costs. Airport efficiency isn’t the sole objective. The same goes for the satisfaction of each and every stakeholder - passengers included.
Oscars and Esnah, together with ISSeP, a Wallonia agency, decided to take up the challenge. Their project was validated by ESA’s Business Applications division within the scope of the “Space-based services for Smart Airports” (1) call for proposals.
« Our project involves a feasibility study meant to show the importance and value of an application able to analyse an airport’s processes and the activity flows which are generated by the landing and ground movements of aircrafts », explains Olivier Dubois, CEO of Oscars.
« The purpose is to identify the information elements which a system or an application needs to optimize airplanes turnaround times, by documenting and optimizing the various flows: flight path of the aircraft from approach to parking, refuelling or catering operations, baggage and cargo handling, passengers movements…
The goal is to optimize operations by identifying the reasons why the situation in the field differs from planned operations as well as the events and factors which, in the course of the day, undermine the planning, in order to alleviate or anticipate them. »
Towards “smart” roll-outs
The proof-of-concept project will last till June 2019. The three partners will combine their expertise in order to reach a series of delivrables: airport process characterisation ; identification of useful data sources ; conversion and utilisation of satellite images ; operational KPI definition (for instance, runway use rate) ; identification of decision-taking parameters to optimize airport processes, to rightsize hardware and software investments and to document operational changes and variances…
The project also ambitions to provide a solid base for automating and industrializing the roll-out of “smart airport” solutions. « A number of processes are common to all airports and are therefore repeatable, although their implementation and certains procedures can be more airport-specific », explains Olivier Dubois.
In the longer term, the project goal is to give rise to an application which will have access to all the information the various ground operations stakeholers need for their daily airport activities. Each of them will then receive, through a personalized interface, the details and directions they need to fulfill their tasks.
Oscars, besides acting as the project leader, will contribute its expertise and skills in airport realtime data analysis and management.
Esnah will be in charge of the project section pertaining to the data collection devices and equipment, in order to identify the necessary data, communication and equipment types.
Olivier Dubois: « According to what airports want to achieve, they could choose to install cameras at key places or show preference for equipping all transportation vehicles with geolocated sensors. Both scenarios have their virtues but also very different technological and economic consequences. »
The project will make use of various technologies: realtime analysis of (geolocated, satellite…) data, process tracking, automated notifications as well as machine learning in order to identify events patterns and cause-and-effects relationships, as well as to detect process irregularities.
ISSeP (Walloon “institut scientifique de service public”) specializes in environment and earth observation and risk assessment. Their expertise will be valuable to manage and interpret space data: satellite data segmentation and categorization, identification of airport “objects”, change monitoring, realtime spatial data refresh in order to feed continuous data to the future app…
(1) The ESA “Space-based services for Smart Airports” call for proposals intends to foster the development of “solutions, devices and services that optimize and automate the usage of airways and airspace infrastructures, checkpoints, passengers-luggage-cargo control system, info points and internal communications of the airports and also smart connections with technologies similar with the smart cities”.
Press release contact :
Olivier Dubois, CEO, +32 85 41 23 27