Back to insights

Airports of the future are smart

The Airports sector is grappling with two major challenges – setting and meeting sustainability targets and aligning with advances in technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions. At Deerns, we are tailoring our experience across multiple sectors to guide Airports into the future.

Sustainability: The Key Driver Towards Smart Airports

Deerns believes that airports can benefit from the introduction of advanced engineered solutions focused on energy reduction, energy transitioning and reduced emissions. These tried and tested solutions have already been implemented across a variety of Deerns projects including Smart hospitals, pharmaceutical laboratories, office buildings and data centres.

The acquired experience has prompted our Integrated Sustainability Services to define six key performance indicators applicable to Airports:

  • Passenger Centrality: The ability to provide quality services to passengers. 
  • Operational Efficiency: The impact of building performance on operations. 
  • Costs: The financial implications of design measures on the business model and operational budgets. 
  • Health and Well-being: Creating spaces that support passenger comfort and provide a healthy work environment for staff. 
  • Sustainability: Designing resource-efficient buildings that positively impact the environment throughout their lifecycle.
  • Smart Buildings: Implementing smart building technologies allow users to connect with the building and facilitate data-driven administrative, operational, and public systems. 

Among these, the latter two aspects, namely Sustainability and Smart Buildings, currently present the most untapped potential for reducing energy consumption, undesirable emissions, and operational expenses. 

Airport Sustainability starts with Smartness 

Digital Due Diligence (DDD) is the first step for airport operators who are on the path to establishing Smart airports. This process allows operators to develop and express their sharp vision and aspirations in terms of Sustainability, Smart integration, and future proofing. 

Deerns’ DDD process provides a workshop-style format that brings together all relevant stakeholders, fostering mutual understanding, consensus on definitions, and the identification and documentation of expectations. These insights are then used to identify the gaps between aspirations and reality and form the foundation for developing a Sustainability Master Plan appropriate to individual conditions. 

Here’s where we integrate Digital Backbones & Smart Systems 

Several major airports are already proactively tackling Sustainability across multiple tiers, particularly those suited to straightforward and easily implementable interventions. Most of these interventions are digitally powered.  

To further enhance the effectiveness and coordination of these interventions, a strategic approach involving the implementation of a digital backbone is necessary. The digital backbone serves as the interconnected framework that links all the independent digital systems operating within airports. Its primary purpose is to facilitate the seamless integration of data generated by these diverse systems.  

By assimilating this data, airports can establish a comprehensive network that enables Smart self-control and intelligent decision-making. Such a unified digital infrastructure not only optimises sustainability efforts but also paves the way for a more streamlined and efficient management of airport operations by: 

  • collecting data from multiple sources
  • analysing data in real time
  • generating immediate responses 

The distinctive benefit of digital networks lies in their capacity to perform real-time data audits and generate prompt responses to prevailing circumstances. Many of these Smart systems have already been embraced in vital sectors such as security, operational safety, fire services and environmental control.

Future Proofing: Flexibility & Smart Utility Networks 

In addition to Sustainability concerns, airports currently face the real prospect of having to adapt to new and emerging flight technologies which will have a direct, and disruptive, impact on their infrastructure.  

For example, an emerging flight technology that is presently influencing air traffic control and airport infrastructure involves the rapid rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for both commercial and institutional applications. These UAVs possess the capability to seamlessly integrate with an airport’s digital backbone, allowing them to be autonomously guided to their designated landing spots without the need for human involvement or intervention.  

Another example that requires a powerful digital backbone are smart utility networks, also referred to as smart grids. Ultimately aiming to avoid the dependency on external utilities supply, these sophisticated systems leverage digital technology to augment the sustainability of airport infrastructures. These networks use diverse technological components including sensors, cameras, communication systems, data analytics and automation, with the goal of balancing and overseeing the use of resources in a more intelligent and cost-effective manner.  

Smart utility networks: 

  • Empower precise command 
  • Expedite responses to disturbances 
  • Enhance resource allocation 
  • Provide seamless integration of renewable energy sources 

The overarching objective of smart utility networks is to optimise resource utilisation, diminish environmental repercussions, and bolster the dependability of indispensable services, both present and future.  

Deerns’ experience in implementing efficient and effective Smart technologies and future proofing strategies at scale across many sectors has empowered us to assist our Airport clients in meeting their sustainability targets and in establishing pathways towards a sustainable, technologically advanced future. For airports, the path to sustainability and future proofing starts with Smartness. 

Let’s talk

Matthias Pöter

Sector Director Airports