ADB SAFEGATE’s Ilya Burkin tells Tara Craig why airport digitalisation is paramount and how his company intends to deliver it

Why is the digital transformation of airports so important?

As in many industries, digital transformation is considered a fourth industrial revolution. Airports are integrating new technologies into their operations, including the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and analytics, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. All of these innovations lead to improved efficiency, safety and, above all, environmental and economical sustainability.

However, even higher value is created when the information from airport operations is integrated with operational data from airlines, air traffic control (ATC) and ground handlers to create whole new levels of visibility and insight not previously possible.

ADB SAFEGATE’s 75 years of aviation experience has equipped us to champion Airside 4.0 innovations driven by advanced sensors, embedded software and AI, which collect and analyse data, allowing better decision-making.

Ilya Burkin ADB Safegate

Ilya Burkin is ADB SAFEGATE’s business development director apron solutions

Apron systems and processes must be adaptable, flexible and resilient, to scale up or down to meet changing demand

What is ’operational elasticity’ and how can you deliver it?

Airside operational elasticity is vital to maintaining consistent high levels of safety, productivity, efficiency and passenger experience despite the conditions or volatility of traffic. Apron systems and processes must be adaptable, flexible and resilient, to scale up or down to meet changing demand. ADB SAFEGATE applies the latest surveillance and automation technology to manage the most complex operational challenges.

Our Safedock advanced visual docking guidance system (A-VDGS) which is the first and last contact for an aircraft on the apron, starting with the docking of an inbound aircraft and ending with pushback during departure, is a vital piece of this puzzle. When it was first deployed, safety was the primary driver. Next came operational efficiency, facilitating the more productive utilisation of real estate and assets. Scalability followed, taking capacity management to the next level. The pandemic has added elasticity to this list of key requirement drivers. Multidimensional, it responds to hard-to-predict volatility and staffing concerns, making it the key to recovery.

 Intelligent AiPRON operational needs chart

The new platform includes components that address everything from apron performance to tracking GSE usage and calculating aeronautical revenue

What are the different elements of Intelligent AiPRON?

Intelligent AiPRON is a new suite of solutions from ADB SAFEGATE that was developed to meet the needs of the market in the post-pandemic era, focusing on airports’ long-term growth plans.

The platform is founded on the concept of Augmented Intelligence, a subsection of AI machine learning that enhances human intelligence rather than operating independently or replacing it. Augmented Intelligence is designed to assist and improve the quality of human decision-making, made possible by the availability of better, more thorough analysis of information and data collected.

It is not good enough to simply tell the user there is a problem that is going to arise. Instead, Intelligent AiPRON constantly analyses incoming data and creates recommendations on how to improve the turnaround process or mitigate any foreseeable issues to stayon top of on-time performance.

ADB Safegate AiPRON 360 analytics dashboard

Investment in digital projects is increasingly connected to the KPIs airports and airlines consider core to operations, ADB SAFEGATE says

One of AiPRON’s advantages is ‘quick and easy deployment’. What training will airport staff need for this?

Modern IT platforms are made up of multiple software frameworks, as well as a variety of operating systems and virtualisation layers. Managing the cohesiveness of this alongside deployments, cost effectively and without disruption to business operations, is a major challenge for airport IT and operations departments – this is why many airports are considering cloud-based deployments. In these cases, the original manufacturer, such as ADB SAFEGATE, becomes the responsible, accountable service provider and application manager for these complex IT systems, operating along predefined service level agreements (SLAs) which underpin an airport’s business processes.

In developing Intelligent AiPRON, we partnered with user experience (UX) software specialists in the aviation industry, with a specific focus on easy adoption and intuitive self-learning.

AiPRON 360 mobile screen

Shown here viewed on a mobile phone, AiPRON 360 alerts the user when adherence to target off block time is at risk and can present solutions to help avoid delay

How can Intelligent AiPRON help drive sustainable aviation?

Apart from designing products and systems which are more sustainable, ADB SAFEGATE also integrates solutions across the airfield, apron, tower and terminal to improve operational efficiency and turnaround time, reduce wasteful fuel burn and thus lower carbon emissions.

Intelligent AiPRON helps airports minimise taxiing time by speeding up turnaround times and driving the efficient use of ground service equipment, leading to less time burning fuel.

Our docking systems reduce taxi time and fuel consumption at more than 300 of the world’s leading airports. Our systems already help Zurich Airport realise efficiencies through monitoring and reducing carbon emissions, while Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport uses our intelligent lighting to lower energy usage by up to 85%.


What elements of the Intelligent AiPRON system will ensure it is future proofed?

Information technologies develop very quickly in any industry and aviation is no different. The global pandemic accelerated many trends, such as contactless journeys and improved passenger experience. However, airports have now turned their attention to the apron as the most important focus, where three flows meet: passengers, aircraft and baggage.

Intelligent AiPRON is an innovative answer to market needs, combining time-tested solutions such as our Safedock A-VDGS with new technologies like IoT and AI, giving airports a holistic way of managing airside operations. Being agnostic towards integration and using new technologies, Intelligent AiPRON gives airports the peace of mind of knowing that whatever comes tomorrow, ADB SAFEGATE will help them with solution updates, user training, consulting services and other challenges.

AiPRON Manager safedock A-VDGS

Safedock A-VDGS doubles as a ramp information display system, receiving updates from AiPRON Manager and delivering information to flight and ground crews

What stage are you at with  Intelligent AiPRON?

During Passenger Terminal Expo 2022 in Paris, we completed a market test of our Intelligent AiPRON ideas and value propositions. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from airports, airlines and ground handlers. My favourite comment was “This is a totally different level of operations – only ADB SAFEGATE can do that.” We developed a multi-year roadmap and development plan, which reflects what our customers need. Intelligent AiPRON was officially launched on February 1, 2023, and we are already undergoing extensive negotiations with airports.


What sets Intelligent AiPRON apart from other systems?

To put it simply, there are no similar products on the market. Intelligent AiPRON provides an opportunity to operate in a totally new way – it is more holistic, more transparent and more elastic.


Looking back at its development, is there anything you would have done differently?

Personally, of course I wish we hadn’t had a global pandemic, but it was an accelerator of innovative thinking in the aviation industry. It provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to stop and re-evaluate how airports work and how we work with airports, pushing us to become driven by customers and set the bar higher than before.

We envision smart interconnected airside assets that result in predictive operations, providing an end-to-end collaborative solution

What new products are you working on?

The next big innovation comes with Airside 4.0. It is a significant move towards our aim of achieving superior airport performance. Today, it continues to provide pilots with visual guidance through concepts such as Follow the Greens for taxiing aircraft.

ADB SAFEGATE sees Airside 4.0 as the core of the future of air travel. Intelligent hardware devices, equipped with the right-sized wireless medium for communication, together with AI-enabled analytics, are set to take operations and situational awareness to a whole new level. We envision smart interconnected airside assets that result in predictive operations, providing an end-to-end collaborative solution. We will not stop until we achieve this vision.