Research Projects

Understanding Coming Improvements and Transformations in Wireless Connectivity: Concepts for Smarter Airports In Reserve

Provide airport and aviation specific information that better enables airport managers to make beneficial decisions and investments in the wireless services and capabilities that support their airport's operations and users.

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

Evolving advancements in wireless connectivity and service-oriented architectures (SOA) applicable to smarter airport functions can provide a wide range of new capabilities and benefits for users and operators of airports, on both the land- and the air-sides. Smarter Airport SOAs depend on providing user and operator services through software applications and data services components delivered through secure communication protocols over a private LTE network. Airport users, whether they are travelers through our nation's large and small airports, pilots using airports and services, airport managers, airport staff, airport service providers, or other airport stakeholders stand to benefit in efficiency and in safety. These advancements include Air-to-Ground, Air-to-Air, Within Vehicle, and SatCom-based WiFi services.
These services will provide bi-directional, low-latency, forward compatible, and highly scalable broadband connections between all nodes, creating a lower-cost airport "internet of things" (IoT). Small Cell telecom technologies are of particular interest for such services. A small cell "bubble" of persistent, reliable, and affordable 4G LTE WiFi connectivity over an airport would enable air-side and land-side innovations in communications-reliant services and operations. In addition, airport business entities covered by such connectivity services could benefit monetarily from supporting commercial services (advertising for example) over these networks. As these wireless technologies advance, these services will migrate from 4G to 5G networks, calling for new connectivity and IoT standards for airports.
Following is a list of some of the capabilities and activities that can be improved by these services:
• Remote Tower operations and services
• IFR Clearance and Release graphical displays and ATC interactions on mobile devices
• Airport Incident Command System (ICS)
• Runway incursion mitigations
• Real-time and frictionless crowd-sourced data sharing for runways
• Real-time Active Runway and arrival planning for controlled and uncontrolled airports
• Commercial Services (Fuel Prices, Ground Transportation, Lodging, Dining, Entertainment, Maintenance)
• Airport Infrastructure Management (airside and landside)
• Perimeter Security Control and Incident Response
• Real-time wildlife situational management (especially at night)
• Management of "Last Mile" mobility in General Aviation - Guidance on services with Courtesy Cars and other forms of Ground Transportation
• Integration with UAS operators through LAANC coordination
• Counting airport operations from Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data.
• Automated real-time, physics-based wake vortex hazard advisories
• Next generation ATIS/AWOS/ASOS systems innovations

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)
  1. Literature Review and Industry assessment, covering the following topics.
    a. State of the industry for telecom protocols and the transformation from 4G to 5G and consequent changes in enabled capabilities, especially those relevant to smarter airports.
    b. A review of modern airport communications infrastructure and systems and identification of opportunities for small cell technologies to supplant or supplement existing systems and their performance and economics.

  2. An assessment and ranking of viable land- and air-side services at airports that would be enabled by bi-directional, low latency, high capacity, scalable connectivity systems.

  3. Proposing an approach to categorizing U.S. airports and airfields into groups that reflect distinctions and commonalities with respect to airport needs and requirements for wireless services. The proposed approach will include examples from the roster of U.S. airports for each proposed airport category.

  4. Proposers would be responsible for developing outlines for Smarter Airport Guidebooks, based on airport types, to align airport types with the connectivity and service-oriented architecture technology options appropriate to each airport type (such as Commercial; Reliever; General Aviation; Helipads; NPIAS and non-NPIAS).

  5. Preparation of airport type-specific planning Guidebooks for airport deployments of 5G wireless technologies, including recommendations to airport authorities and operations entities for developing the own-airport-specific content necessary for development of plans for transitioning from legacy to next generation systems supporting "connected airports," including any related Smart Cities initiatives of relevance to their airports.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$400,000, which reflects the project's requirements to both research and document anticipated 5G and other wireless capabilities and requirements in general and link these to the needs and circumstances of a range of airport sizes and types.

Idea No. 133