Powering the road to recovery for the aviation sector
When COVID-19 started to make its presence felt in the UK and across the world in early 2020, nobody could have predicted the impact it would have on everyday life. The pandemic has altered the way we live and has significantly dampened the economy. The aviation sector is among the worst affected, owing to restrictions imposed on travel.
In May 2020, legendary investor Warren Buffet dumped US airline stocks, saying that the ‘world has changed’ after COVID-19. With vaccine roll-out now underway and a COVID-19 testing regime in place at airports, there is now according to government a ‘real possibility’ that life can return back to normal by Easter.
This hope coincides with a real optimism about how airports can start to rebuild and become stronger.
The aviation industry can help catalyse its recovery by embracing innovation and becoming more digitally focused and collaborative. For example, technology can be harnessed to automate the customer journey such that the need for face to face contact and contact with surfaces can be minimised, thus reducing the risk for transmission of viruses.
Denver International Airport recently launched an app called VeriFLY that allows high-risk passengers to move through key elements of the airport with less contact and congestion and more safety and speed. At the Kyushu Saga International Airport in Japan, All Nippon Airways (ANA) is working together with Toyota Industries to develop a towing tractor operation to automate baggage and cargo handling operations.
As part of Heathrow Airport’s efforts to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 and to enable social distancing measures to be carried out, UK Power Networks Services was commissioned in July 2020 to test innovative technologies that could help electricity engineers work remotely rather than on site.
The study aimed to investigate the role of ‘mixed reality’ technologies including the use of geo-fencing, a cyber perimeter that ensures the network remains highly secure in the virtual world. Biometric scanning such as facial recognition will also be tested to provide further checks of authentication and authorisation, in addition to conventional technologies.
As well as enabling staff to control the electricity network remotely, thereby minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, additional benefits include the reduction of energy losses and costs, as sections of the network can be monitored and switched off remotely when required, and a reduced carbon footprint as airport staff don’t need to travel to, and around the airport so often.
Aviation’s role in modern life and business is undeniable. Alongside the immediate priorities for recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19, many are gearing to get back to refocusing on their carbon reduction goals and realising their masterplan of delivering new terminals, air traffic control centres, runway extensions or upgrades and increasing capacity.
It is clear that the drive for new approaches and digital innovations will undoubtedly put significant demands on the energy infrastructure network that is powering the operating systems. To ensure airports and airlines continue to run smoothly and bring to bear new innovations that will enhance the overall performance in a post-COVID-19 world, a resilient and safe network that delivers high quality power and reliability would be key.
Airlines are making adjustments, the economy will pick back up and there remain few existing alternatives to air travel. COVID-19 has taught us that the world is highly dynamic and our lives will continue to be reshaped and industries need to evolve to survive, innovate to stay relevant and be strategic in futureproofing in order to thrive.
With the quest for carbon footprint reduction and a greener world picking up pace, it is an opportune time to develop an energy strategy and operational roadmap that would put airports and airlines in good stead to focus on its most important business goals. Some questions to consider would be -
- How can you futureproof your airport operations to ensure safety, resilience, expansion, new technologies and sustainability?
- Do you have a good understanding of the impact of new technology on your existing energy infrastructure?
- What knowledge do you need to prioritise projects and interpret information for actionable intelligence?
- Have you put in place an electrification plan that would reduce your carbon footprint?
- Are you ready to embrace sustainable fuels and Green aviation technology?
At UK Power Networks Services, we pride ourselves on being strategic partners and delivering innovation-led expertise so our clients can focus on their core business and most important priorities. Airports have made commitments to continue investing in airport infrastructure. We can help our clients create the foundation that underpins their masterplans to achieve net zero goals, operational excellence, security of supply and network resilience in a cost efficient and sustainable way.