The AvRamp technology was developed in partnership with the TSA. The product is billed as “Wi-free,” with the transmission of data being sent through small communication nodes installed around the airport. With American Eagle as the company’s first airline customer, I.D. Systems has focused on increasing its North American customer base.
The International Arena
Wireless fleet optimization technology has gained traction in the international market. A number of fleets at European airports have implemented the Airport Visualiser wireless technology by Zebra Enterprise Solutions for its ramp operations, including Munich, Heathrow, Schiphol, and Madrid international airports. It has also been implemented by Abu Dhabi Airport Services and Singapore Airport Terminal Services.
Singapore Airport Terminal Services implemented the Airport Visualiser in 2006 as a pilot on its container loaders at Singapore Changi Airport. The trial showed the company needed seven fewer loaders in operation. In 2007, the company decided to roll out the system on 340 units, including main deck loaders, passenger steps, and baggage tractors.
According to Karmjit Singh, consultant to president/CEO at SATS, the system allows for a heightened level of transparency in its resources. “Asset productivity was the main outcome because operations could be as efficiently handled with fewer assets and resources,” he says. “The transparency of ramp/baggage operations improved and the operations controllers are able to make better real time decisions for tactical deployment of [container loaders] and other GSE based on the very dynamic flight changes daily. GSE maintenance benefitted, because real-time monitoring of fleet utilization enabled better scheduling for preventive maintenance instead of maintenance based on fixed schedules.”
Singh also says the employees have come to rely on the technology. “Like all new IT projects, staff are always skeptical initially,” he says, “but through proper education and frequent communication, staff realized the benefits operationally.
“The duty controllers now are so dependant on the system for better quality decision making and timely GSE deployment,” he says, “that they won’t want to go back to the legacy system operating with ‘blind spots.’”
He adds, ‘hoarding’ of GSE, in preparation especially for peak operations, used to create an artificial shortage of GSE; this is not necessary now because the location of GSE is known and timely deployment is the essence of operations.”
As for the future rollout at additional airport locations, Singh predicts the company’s larger joint-venture (JV) partners at separate locations will likely take a cue from the program at Changi Airport. “The larger JVs themselves will make their own decisions and learn from SATS headquarter’s experience — it is a matter of time that the larger JVs may follow suit,” he says.
The Airport Visualiser transmits and receives data either using standard WiFi (802.11 B/G) or standard GPRS data communications via the public network. Additionally, the 24730 standard is supported to send information to a very sparse number of 24730 base stations. The program is being sold worldwide, but Zebra Enterprise Solutions has been focused on increasing its European and Asian customer base.
As with any large-scale installation project, the implementation process does require considerable planning on the part of the customer. For American Eagle’s implementation of the AvRamp system at DFW, the carrier coordinated the rollout with the permission of the airport authority, a process that took a few months.
Zebra Enterprise says that the implementation process can be largely a waiting game. “What we have noticed is there can be a waiting period,” says Frank Kooijman, vice president of equipment fleet management products at Zebra Enterprise Solutions. “Obviously, if it’s an airport, you don’t let planes wait because the equipment is being serviced. That can sometimes create fairly long waiting times that you need to schedule in your plan.”
The Future of Wireless Technology
All three technology companies have expressed a desire to increase the interoperability of their technology with other airport systems. Just how widely used such technology will become, especially in the North American market, remains to be seen. One thing is for certain: Technology will continue to revolutionize the ramp.
The company announced that the carrier has selected the AvRamp™ Wireless Vehicle Management System to manage a fleet of aircraft GSE at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.