Synthesis Topics

Airport Pandemic Response Technologies Guidebook

The Covid-19 Pandemic has had a more deleterious effect on the worldwide aviation system than anything that has come since the Wright Brothers first set wing to wind in the early 1900's, eclipsing even the impacts associated with the September 11th attacks in 2001. The governmental guidelines (in some municipalities, stated as requirements), for physical distancing (the now-infamous six-foot rule), may work manually and intuitively in the heat of the crisis, given the historically low passenger volumes. However, that simply will not scale, as passenger traffic returns in force, with all of the pent-up demand for air travel. Health screening and other related requirements, such as face coverings/masks, may become a part of a future reality, and the what, where and how of that prospect should be fully reviewed.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

The ongoing COVID19 Pandemic makes one thing very clear: In a very broad sense, the air transport environment was entirely unprepared for a medically-related issue of this magnitude. For decades, passenger traffic has grown at rates that were often faster than facilities could be built (or technology deployed, in the case of common use and other systems) to accommodate it. In short, that meant that in many areas of the airport environment, from the departure curb to the gate, and from the arrival gate to the bag claim carousel, in the ground transportation line, and even at the rental car facility, people queued and/or clustered in crowds. (In fact, planes had, at least until the virus broke out, been flying at record load factors—often 100% full, which only extended crowding into that very confined environment.)

An expedited synthesis investigation to help airports understand and address the many challenges that they will face, and to identify some of the possible solutions that could be brought to bear on this issue is necessary. This review would include, an overview of the underlying technologies that could be appropriately deployed to actively watch and direct and/or alert, in the event that crowds are gathering in a particular area, and/or to highlight that people in the airport environment—whether customers or workers—are using the facilities in a manner that may be harmful to themselves and/or others.

There may also be the need to perform, either actively or passively, some additional health screening in the airport environment, as a part of the travel (or work) process. What could that look like, and where in the environment would that be placed—perhaps in multiple places (such as building entry and the security checkpoints)? How would passengers be notified? Would the terminal be filled with static signage, or would it be dynamic? Would it flow, in some manner, to passengers' mobile devices? Might those mobile devices be able to transmit some sort of a self-assessment to their air carrier and/or the airport operator. The data could flow into an airport database, where it could be operationalized in many different ways, almost certainly by a variety of stakeholders, as appropriate.

If masks (or any other item) are to be provided to the passengers, there will have to be accounting, and inventory control measures, along with an airport-wide distribution plan. All of that will need to be actively managed, with technology undergirding it throughout. Gloves being made available to employees and/or passengers, as well as hand sanitizer deployment and monitoring could also be a part of that operational database. Distribution points could also be driven by the resource management system through the operational database as well.

An understanding of broader passenger flow analytics should also be undertaken to fully understand the opportunity for confirming traffic patterns in the terminal area. These analytic solutions could be useful as predictors as of the upcoming choke points for closely-spaced traffic. These analytics could utilize such technologies as WiFi, Bluetooth, video analytics, and/or LIDAR sensors—and actually probably some combination of these, deployed in varying places—places where one technology is likely better than another for a task.

Technologies and processes that would support a touchless environment would certainly need review. Biometrics may be of assistance here, though even facial biometrics has been adversely impacted by the wearing of masks. There are currently many touch points in the airport environment; identification should be made of these elements in the passenger journey, from curb to aircraft.

The many stakeholders in the airport environment should be involved in this review, from the airports, the air carriers, federal partners, such as TSA, CBP and FAA, law enforcement, fire, legal, concessions, ground transportation companies, and of course, medical personnel.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

A review of options and alternatives is critically needed to produce guidance to airport operators in the creation of an approach to implementing technology that can automate the monitoring of many pandemic/epidemic-related distance requirements and passive medical screening in and around their facilities.

The review should also:

  • Identify best practices for monitoring separation in the various areas in and around the airport environment, bringing technology into play, whether with systems such as camera analytics, lidar, or with other technologies.

  • Suggest ways that, with the automated monitoring of separation, measures can be directed, perhaps with targeted announcements in areas with growing crowds; or, ways that alerting can be accomplished to appropriate personnel to dispel gathered crowds.

  • Review available methods to perform basic passive medical screening and identify:

  • Measurement objectives (e.g., body temperature)

  • Location alternatives for such screening

  • Passive versus more directly interactive screening (perhaps in phases)

  • Notification and/or response chain for those identified for further investigation

  • Notification methodologies with respect to the screening

  • Data flow relative to the process, to ensure that objectives are maintained

  • Identify challenges in other environments, such as rental car facilities or at general aviation airports or areas on —both on major airport fields and separate and distinct facilities

  • Identify all areas of touch that need to be address in the customer journey, as well as touchpoints that exist in employee work areas.

  • Highlight concerns and summarize specialized needs in federal areas, such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Aviation Administration and others, including law enforcement and emergency medical and fire protection groups.

The review should involve representative stakeholders in the airport environment (such as Airports Council International, which has active identified groups working to develop guidelines, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as well as Airlines for America (A4A)), and should also include appropriately qualified medical representatives, such as those from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)
  1. Kickoff web meeting with ACRP Project Panel
  2. Primary review of airports, airlines, solution providers, industry associations, such as ACI and IATA), enabling technologies, innovations in development, etc.
  3. Expedited review of high value subjects (Airports, Airlines, Solution Providers)
  4. Identification of key Program elements to guide development
  5. Develop Draft Final Deliverables
  6. Final Deliverable: Review report


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Topic Collection
Idea No. 482