Virtually building a "digital twin" of an airport is becoming increasingly popular by architects and engineers who need to more efficiently plan, design, and build; staff who need to effectively operate and maintain these complex facilities; and managers who constantly need to make informed decisions. The concepts behind a digital twin (e.g. graphical representation of facilities, recording current status of assets, systems integration, simulation, mobile access, reporting) are not new. What is new is the technical capabilities to bring all of these capabilities together to provide not just an appealing 3D view, but an intuitive information resource supports informed and coordinated decision making across airport organizations.
Conference topics, requests for proposals, and a growing number of successful cases indicate the need for "digital twins" of our airports, as well as sparked the attention of large, medium, and small airport managers. Questions asked include "what is a digital twin?", "can I realistically achieve one for our airport?", "what steps can I take?", and "how much will it cost?" are being asked, hence the need for industry research on this topic.
Research into "digital twins" for airports should determine what airports need and how they will apply the technology to meet their needs. The cost-benefit of digital twins and how to "right-size" them for different sizes and types of airports should be considered. Relevant literature and case studies inside and outside the U.S. as well as within the airport industry, as well as other industries investing in complex infrastructure should be summarized. The technologies involved and how they can be approach, as well as options such as cloud-hosting, should be evaluated. A guidebook on steps to take would be an important final result.
Technology has made the concept of a digital twin possible, research is now needed to help airports realize its potential to meet their development, operational, and maintenance needs.