Emerging Use of Wireless GSE

Benefits include reduced maintenance costs, boosting fleet effectiveness

  • Security
    Through driver authentication, location tracking, and geo-fencing, wireless GSE fleet management systems provide a last layer of security for parked aircraft against potential terrorist attacks. Vehicle access control (driver authentication) prevents unauthorized personnel from using an airside vehicle — such as a fuel truck — as a weapon. Location tracking and remote vehicle deactivation can be employed to stop suspicious vehicle behavior. And geo-fencing (electronic boundaries of authorized and unauthorized geographic regions within the airport) can trigger automatic security alerts and vehicle shut-down based on defined emergency conditions.
  • Safety
    As a safety system, wireless management of GSE has much to offer. Vehicle access control (driver authentication) ensures only fully accredited operators can use the GSE for which they are trained (a mandate of many government health and safety organizations). Vehicle inspection checklists are also often a regulatory requirement, and wireless systems provide the most fool-proof, cost-effective way to administer and enforce such requirements.
    With these tools — plus impact and speed sensing — wireless GSE management systems establish total operator accountability, which typically results in fewer GSE accidents, fewer injuries to ground handling personnel, and less damage to aircraft. In addition, the geo-fencing and remote shut-down capabilities of a wireless system can prevent GSE runway incursions.
  • Productivity
    Perhaps the greatest benefit of wireless GSE fleet management technology is the impact it can make on productivity — specifically, the ability to help ground handlers respond quickly, with the right resources, to meet the constantly changing demands of flight schedules.
    With real-time graphical visibility of vehicle location, finding borrowed or misplaced equipment is quick and easy, eliminating the significant time that is typically wasted searching for such equipment. Two-way text messaging and automated dispatch capabilities also provide GSE managers with a new way to allocate resources “on the fly” and direct work efforts to optimize aircraft turnaround. In addition, wireless GSE fleet management systems enable time-motion studies and peak asset utilization analyses that identify and quantify opportunities for fleet optimization and “right-sizing.”

Choosing the Right Wireless Technology
IT and ground support managers may debate over which wireless technology to deploy to best support the business needs of GSE management. Each technology has positives and negatives, so it’s crucial to understand how different wireless systems handle different operational scenarios — especially how they respond to adverse conditions, such as interference from other wireless systems at the airport, saturation of airwaves during emergencies, wireless network outages, and “blind spots” where real-time wireless connectivity may not be available.
Popular wireless choices include:

  • “Closed-loop” long-range RFID-based systems, especially application-specific technology designed for vehicle tracking.
  • GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile data systems that use third-party cellular networks.
  • “Wi-Fi” (802.11) systems that work over an existing Wireless local Area Network (WLAN).

Closed-loop RFID technology has many significant advantages, as illustrated in the table below.

Closed-Loop Long-Range RFID
Zero communication costs Local radio frequency (RF) communication is free; unlimited data can be transmitted for detailed workforce management, vehicle status monitoring, and real-time location tracking and analysis
Simultaneous communications
with unlimited quantity of assets
Systems can manage thousands of vehicles simultaneously
(critical for multi-tenant airport environment)
Long range; high RF propagation RF coverage throughout airport, even under wing (no blind spots)
Indoor as well as
outdoor communication
Systems use RFID as well as GPS location detection technology to enable asset tracking under roof as well as outdoors
Indoor as well as
outdoor location tracking
Systems use RFID as well as GPS location detection technology to enable asset tracking under roof as well as outdoors
No single point of failure
Distributed system intelligence ensures system and data integrity if any individual component fails, even the system server
Low bandwidth requirements Intelligent data packet transmissions minimize both RF and local area network traffic; transmissions also highly resistant to interference
High security closed loop Military-standard, non-public wireless security architecture makes system impervious to attacks on/infiltration of local network
No IP address maintenance/
upgrade costs
Vehicle hardware is RFID-based, not a network node, so there are no IP address maintenance or upgrade (or security) issues
Independent intelligence
on each vehicle
Vehicle hardware is programmed to process information and act on business rules, not just log and transmit data; it is not dependent on constant connectivity to network
Locally integrated and controlled Not susceptible to third-party data security breaches, network outages, or system problem remediation

[At least one major application-specific, RFID-based technology — from I.D. Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: IDSY) — has the added advantage of having been formally tested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and approved for use at U.S. airports by FAA.]

GPRS is another popular technology for wireless GSE management. Its main advantages are that it can be deployed quickly and does not touch the local area network at all. But there are many limitations to this technology that make it less than ideal for truly comprehensive, long-term GSE fleet management:

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