Optimized Situational Awareness Improves Ramp Work

New technologies provide a more comprehensive and intelligent view of the AOA and help organize ramp work.

ASDE-X is a runway-safety tool that enables air traffic controllers to detect potential runway conflicts by providing coverage of movement on runways and taxiways. By collecting data from a variety of sources, ASDE-X is able to track vehicles and aircraft on airport surfaces and obtain identification information from aircraft transponders.

“So basically having a transponder in each vehicle that connects to the ASDE-X feed for the tower so it knows where everyone is at on the airfield at any particular time,” Bartholomew explains. “Also, individual ops people will know where other ops people are at any given time.”

Comments Ricketson: “There have been some cases where we have almost had some accidents because we lack situational awareness, and the FAA is testing some technologies utilizing the ASDE-X feed so that all vehicles on the airfield have the ability to understand where they are in relation to other vehicles and people moving on the airfield.”

The weaknesses can be seen around the gates, according to Ricketson: “Because the airplanes aren’t necessarily transponding in and around the gates you know something is there, you just don’t know the type of aircraft it is.

“As far as the data goes, as the eALP data comes more prevalent across the airport industry, it will be used for many things that airports have not even thought of yet.

“The data is very accurate; it’s survey-grade data — it is certainly going to be useful for any of the NextGen GPS navigation-based technologies.”

The asset management, maintenance management, and work order management life cycle of being able to do inspections in the field and conduct real-time communication of where there may be a maintenance or safety issue, and being able to feed that information to somebody who can take care of the issue is a huge need for airports, he relates.

There are many airports that do not have a wireless network on the airfield and are relying on radio and cellular communication that isn’t able to feed a large bandwidth of information, Ricketson says.

“As airports like Atlanta and others start to install wireless on the airfield,” he adds, “you can start to utilize the network and perform real-time mapping with mobile devices.”



For airports with limited resources, mobile technology can help, says Ricketson. “There are already folks who have eyes on a lot of these assets, whether it’s airfield lighting or pavement, if you can enable those folks with a mobile device, they can not only use it to help them find the light that went out last night, but also to help keep data maintained and fresh.”

From start to finish, the FLL eALP took a little more than a year and a half to complete.

The cost has been negligible, according to Bartholomew.

“The FAA has provided essentially a road map on how to collect GIS data … we decided to write that into our specifications for our new airfield, and we also added in our existing airfield to that,” he adds. “All the data that is being required for the eALP is also required for the runway template action plan process that we have for the new runway. That includes airfield geometry and location of buildings as well as any airspace obstructions. Because we had to collect it anyway, we decided to collect it so that it meets the advisory circulars’ standards. So we built an eALP out of information that we had to gather anyway.”

Woolpert is currently finishing up eALP projects in Denver and Tulsa, are two-thirds the way through San Francisco, and is a sub-consultant on the project in Orlando. “We have doing this at probably well over 25 airports right now,” says Ricketson.

“We also do a lot of work for the WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) program for the FAA … if you are looking for that kind of procedure at the airport, you have to have an aeronautical survey done. We’ve done at least a couple hundred WAAS airports around the country over that past five or six years. Those are less than the eALP, but they must comply with at least some of the standards that are part of FAA’s advisory circulars, and could be considered a component of an eALP.”


Brad McAllister was the editor of Airport Business and served on the staff for four years. He is currently the director of marketing for AirIT.

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