The Techno Environment

THE TECHNO ENVIRONMENT Howwe manage the airport environment is undergoing change By Sarah Smith, Madison Environmental June 2000 The electronic and digital revolution occurring worldwide bodes well for the future of environmental...


Howwe manage the airport environment is undergoing change

By Sarah Smith, Madison Environmental

June 2000

The electronic and digital revolution occurring worldwide bodes well for the future of environmental management at airports. Here's an analysis of the emerging technologies that will be impacting the airport environment.

The savvy environmental manager should already be online to receive regulatory updates and compliance solutions. The progressive environmental manager should be using an Environmental Management Infor-mation System (EMIS) and Geogra-phic Information System (GIS) to store information, visualize environmental data, and cut costs for data analysis and reporting. The visionary environmental manager should be using sensors that send data through radio waves or phone lines to the EMIS database linked to the GIS to automate and control airport environmental issues.

These technologies are here and will only continue to be developed by those interested in bettering the engineering and science and decreasing the costs of compliance with environmental regulations.

M any airports are in the process of integrating GIS into their operations. The amount of electronic data available on the Web is increasing at exponential rates.

Imagery such as aerial photographs, topographic maps, digital elevation models, wetlands maps, soils maps, geology maps, and hydrologic maps are becoming more available and easily downloaded. These images serve as basemaps and can be layered one on top of the other.

Most airports have CAD maps which can be "georeferenced" (put in the same coordinate system as the other maps) and broken up into layers. Common layers show airport tenant sites, fuel farms and hydrant systems, stormwater pathways, deicing facilities, utilities, and ongoing clean-up efforts.

A basic GIS for most airports can be built for less than $30,000 by experienced consultants. The utility of the GIS can be significantly increased at nominal cost if electronic data regarding the airport already exists.

However, the advancement of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology enables hundreds of airport features to be added to the GIS in a single day of field work. To achieve this, consultants have developed "data dictionaries" specifically for airports to aid in the transfer of features from the GPS unit to the GIS. These data dictionaries are tailored to airport operations and enable multiple "layers" of airport features in the GIS, often with sub-meter accuracy.

Once the GIS is functional, the environmental manager and consultants should be able to prepare tables and figures of environmental data quickly and inexpensively. Most GIS software has "zoom" capability, and using the aerial photographs as a basemap makes an effective communication tool for in-house meetings or regulatory reporting.

Air quality, noise, surface water, and groundwater information can be analyzed spatially by creating contour maps in a fraction of the time conventionally required. While the spatial analysis of data will still require expertise to provide meaningful results, the scientists and engineers can spend their time analyzing the data rather than putting the data into a format that enables the analysis. This GIS tool cuts data analysis and reporting costs and ultimately produces better engineering and scientific solutions.

In addition to two-dimensional graphics, several software packages enable the user to view sites and environmental data in three dimensions. The ability to rotate the site maps around any axis aids in the analysis and communication of data. Seeing what the subsurface geology and groundwater look like can assist the scientists, engineers, administrators, and the lay person alike. In-house, regulatory and public education can be greatly enhanced by this tool.

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