Only if you know your partner, can you ‘move mountains’, says Steffen Günther-Schmitz, head of flight operations planning at Fraport. He is referring to a well-established working relationship between his company and ADB SAFEGATE.

As a strategic partner, Fraport is first to test ADB SAFEGATE solutions, from artificial intelligence (AI) to machine learning and 5G wireless technologies. The benefits of working closely together from the outset of a project are felt by both companies. Peter Håkansson is director product management apron at ADB SAFEGATE. He told Airports International: “The strategic partnership allows us to test new ideas and perform proof of concept tests with Fraport. We can deep-dive into Fraport’s challenges and evaluate the impact of our solutions. It lets us develop a long-term roadmap.”

Peter Håkansson,  ADB SAFEGATE

Peter Håkansson,  ADB SAFEGATE director product management apron

Günther-Schmitz agrees. He said: “Once we decide to operate with a special supplier, we see the benefits in them getting to know how our airport works. There will always be optimisation, learnings and development on both sides of a partnership.”

Material benefits

In 2023 Frankfurt airport signed a frame agreement for the delivery of 65 ADB SAFEGATE Safedock X Advanced Visual Docking Guidance Systems (A-VDGS). These are key to improving low visibility/all-weather operations, as well as the expansion of the airport’s existing SafeControl Apron Management system (now known as AiPRON Manager) for the new Terminal 3.

ADB SAFEGATE’s Håkansson explained that Safedock X is equipped with not only Lidar (light detection and ranging), but also a radar sensor for improved performance in low visibility operations. The radar is weather agnostic, so operations remain largely unimpeded by weather conditions.

Asked what improvements he hoped to see with the deployment of Safedock X, Günther-Schmitz said: “We expect stabilisation of the arrival docking process, especially under adverse conditions like fog, heavy rain or snowfall.” He added that Safedock X’s cameras will help provide a better view of the turnaround process, especially in terms of gate position and allocation, as well as enabling a computer vision AI function capable of generating turnaround timestamps.

According to Günther-Schmitz, Frankfurt’s infrastructure and layout, with its many cul-de-sacs, means that the airport’s A-SMGCS (advanced surface movement guidance and control system) needs gap-filler sensors for stabilisation of targets on the terminal stands. “We therefore tested the laser sensor of the Safedock X as a gap-filler technology. The results really impressed us and so we are going to install it for almost all our stands,” he added.

Steffen Günther-Schmitz, Fraport head of flight operations planning

Meeting growing demands

Airports are under pressure to accommodate increasing numbers of travellers without committing huge sums of money or expanding their own footprint. According to ADB SAFEGATE, the answer lies in increasing operational efficiency and shortening the turnaround time. This is where two further ADB SAFEGATE solutions will come into play at Frankfurt.

Håkansson explained: “We are deploying our Ramp Information Display System (RIDS) displays at drive-through positions, to provide the same information to pilots and ground crew no matter the type of stand. To simplify and make the implementation more cost-effective, 5G communication is used with the displays.”

ADB SAFEGATE and Fraport are also collaborating on a turn-tracking tool utilising existing infrastructure. This will provide improved insight into the aircraft turn from touch down to departure. “This is done without having to invest in additional network infrastructure but also without having to share footage centrally at the airport, thus taking privacy into account,” Håkansson added.

Terminal 3 construction Frankfurt

When complete, Frankfurt’s Terminal 3 will be able to handle up to 25 million passengers a year

These solutions will support increased automation at Frankfurt, leading to higher efficiency and safer movements on the apron. They will deliver environmental benefits, too, with shorter taxi times cutting fuel burn, and will drive the introduction of more environmentally friendly ground power units and electric preconditioned air units.

Asked what sets ADB SAFEGATE solutions apart from those of the competitors, Håkansson concluded: “Proven and proprietary 3D laser technology together with the radar technology and a next-generation platform that will future-proof apron operations by allowing all of the above.”

The authors of this article will be speaking on ‘Airside Innovations at Frankfurt Airport’ at Passenger Terminal Expo (Day One, April 16, at 9:05am)