Research Projects

Digital Twin for Airports : Why and How? In Reserve

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.

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

Airports appear to be looking to do more with less, especially in the current environment. Manager's expect to have reliable information at their fingertips and have grown impatient with persistent silos between organizational units. Our aging infrastructure needs to be efficiently improved. For all of these reasons, airports want to use "digital twins" to efficiently, effectively, and reliably respond to their facility, asset, and customer needs. This desire was expressed at a recent AAAE Geospatial Technologies Conference, where several airports expressed interest in digital twins as well as industry research that they can apply to fulfill this interest.

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

A guidebook that explains what a digital twin is for an airport and how it can be achieved. What steps can be followed and what best practices should be emulated and challenges overcome. What will the costs and benefits be?

Idea No. 703