Purdue University Airport, in collaboration with industry partners Ericsson and Saab, has announced the creation of a unique 5G network that will serve as a “lab to life” proving ground for academics, researchers and business to develop commercial solutions that can be replicated to improve operations and security at airports of all sizes. 5G innovation has promised to provide a new generation of capabilities for enterprises. This project aims to bring to life the benefits of private 5G for airports, where new high-performance networks can be tested in real-life scenarios.
In today’s environment, airports install sensors and systems that require hardwired network connections, often requiring physical connection points via trenches for copper lines or fiber-optic cables. Alternatively, airports can consider point-to-point radio frequency links, which are often unreliable, or public cellular connections that come with subscription fees and consumer-oriented performance limitations. The collaboration among Purdue University, Ericsson and Saab at Purdue Airport makes this approach obsolete. With the technology exhibited at Purdue, airports will find they have more flexibility to add or relocate products when the airport goes through construction phases, saving time and resources for operators and consumers.
Ericsson, one of the leading providers of information and communication technology to service providers across the globe, will contribute a private 5G network for the Purdue Research Foundation to operate at the Purdue University Airport (LAF). LAF is Purdue University’s public-use airport, which is located in the southwest portion of the West Lafayette campus. It conducts over 125,000 aircraft operations annually, making it Indiana’s second-busiest airport.
Saab will invest in this project by installing Aerobahn, a platform that unlocks airport efficiency for airlines and ramp management; installing SAFE Event Management platforms, a security platform used in airport operation centers; and deploying ADS-B sensors to track aircraft. These investments will improve landside operational safety and efficiency, as well as improve airside security.
Purdue will provide use of its airport as well as the lab to life testbed established throughout Discovery Park District at Purdue, a 400-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to the university’s campus.
“Purdue University is the perfect location for this project to innovate airport management,” said Purdue President Mung Chiang. “Purdue has established longstanding partnerships with Ericsson and Saab, two Swedish innovators and global tech leaders. Purdue University Airport is one of the handful of airports operated at a research university in the U.S. And Purdue’s Discovery Park District, next to our airport, has provided a lab to life ecosystem where cutting-edge technologies are deployed before any other locations in the country. No other location is better suited for these exciting 5G innovations and network management solutions that will impact people’s lives around the globe.”
Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology for Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Discovery Park District at Purdue, said, “Expanding the lab to life platform to the Purdue Airport creates great opportunities to advance aviation and mobility innovation and education in partnership with industry, faculty and students. The combination of Purdue’s operational airport, research faculty and students with Ericsson’s Private 5G network and Saab’s sensor arrays and operating systems is an innovation and education asset that is unlike anything else that exists today.”
Ericsson Private 5G is a 4G and 5G dual-mode core private network tailored to drive the digital transformation across a broad set of industries and enterprises. Ericsson Private 5G is a high-performance, easy-to-use, cellular connectivity solution built to power innovation for Industry 4.0.
“We are witnessing uptake in global demand for digitalization at airports that requires stable, secure and high-performing wireless networking. Ericsson’s Private 5G network will enable cellular connectivity for the lab to life innovation platform at the Purdue University Airport,” said George Mulhern, head of Ericsson Enterprise Wireless Solutions. “This unique collaboration enables trials and industrialization of 5G applications and use cases that help solve aviation market needs – improving flight safety, enhanced passenger experience, as well as increased efficiencies and cost savings. This is just one more example of how different enterprises can work with 5G networks to develop solutions in real-world environments.”
Adam Baxmeyer, Purdue Airport manager, sees the private 5G installation as a strong fit with the airport’s vision.
“Purdue Airport has proven to be a key location in Indiana to aid commercial and industrial consumers. We have built a sterling reputation through more than 90 years of service,” Baxmeyer said. “Our mission also extends to Purdue students, faculty and staff who hone skills, conduct research and improve upon today’s aviation and transportation technology. This collaboration is a natural fit for Purdue Airport as it enables us to study and better understand technologies that will be fundamental to airports of the future.”
Saab will be the first industry partner to use this dedicated 5G network. Saab, a global defense and security company, opened an advanced manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District at Purdue in 2021. That state-of-the-art facility supports production of the T-7A Red Hawk, which will train the next generation of U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber pilots for decades to come.
“This platform is intended to showcase how state-of-the-art airport systems can work with 5G technology,” said Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S. “By combining airside and landside operations to improve airport efficiency and planning, the platform at Purdue will help us continue that journey. Investing together with Ericsson at Purdue is a no-brainer and a win-win for Indiana. We’re proud to be a part of this innovative 5G project, leveraging our longstanding track record of excellence in air traffic control to deliver a solution that will be replicable across other platforms.”
David Rosenberg, Indiana Economic Development Corp. chief operating officer and chief of staff, said, “The state applauds the thought leadership of Ericsson, Saab and Purdue in establishing this collaboration. This type of impactful project between two global industry leaders and an internationally renowned research university all based here in Indiana is what we had hoped for when the state made 5G development a top priority. It is fulfilling to see this collaboration and its commercial results alongside other 5G projects in Indiana.”