Spring 2023

An integrated digital solution for airport decision-making

AXON EQ LED inset lights have built-in sensors to collect situational data, enabling airports to pinpoint service and maintenance needs while also providing a higher level of control to improve airport operations under low-visibility and other challenging conditions

Robert Stachow, VP, airfield connected solutions at Brussels, Belgium-headquartered ADB SAFEGATE, tell Airside about the company’s Airfield 4.0 solution. ADB SAFEGATE specialises in fully integrated solutions that support airport development and optimise operational procedures, and its Airfield 4.0 is said to be the answer to navigating enormous pools of data through the use of automation, thereby digitising the airfield and enabling optimal real-time decision making

When was the concept of Airfield 4.0 introduced and how has it evolved?

ADB SAFEGATE’s Airfield 4.0 concept was introduced in November 2021 at the inter airport Europe exhibition in Munich, alongside the launch of our [airfield lighting communication platform] LINC 360. Then, in May 2022, we launched our AXON EQ LED inset lights and LINC Node, other key components of the solution.
ADB SAFEGATE collaborated with key customers on many aspects of the development of Airfield 4.0, and those conversations are still ongoing. In 2023, we are holding three regional innovation summits (in Europe, Asia and the Americas) with our customers at which we will present our Airfield 4.0 innovations and roadmap for the future and gather feedback to validate that we are investing in the right areas.
The background to the Airfield 4.0 concept is as follows. ADB SAFEGATE has spent over a century as a frontrunner in airfield innovation and solutions, contributing to the very framework of the industry itself with the introduction of technologies that vastly improve airfield safety and efficiency.
In this information age, Airfield 4.0 is the answer to navigating enormous pools of data with the use of automation to digitise the airfield and enable real-time decision making in the most efficient way possible.
With Airfield 4.0, ADB SAFEGATE delivers a smarter, more interconnected airfield to customers, which enables predictive maintenance operations and end-to-end collaborative solutions.
It provides powerful aviation tools like AXON EQ intelligent inset lights, the LINC 360 bidirectional power line communication system and LINC Node cloud monitoring technology to revolutionise airfield operations and enable real-time, data-driven decision making.
The manipulation of data in meaningful ways, interconnectivity, smart automation and efficiency all translate to more robust operations and decreased costs. Airfield 4.0 takes advantage of powerful automation tools to spot weaknesses and point to solutions in real time.
Its cloud technology allows for instant sharing of airfield ground lighting information, streamlines communication options and reduces data transport time. Plus, having a data-driven approach means an evolution in maintenance from corrective to preventive to predictive. This course to true digitalisation is what will set airports apart in the future.

So, Airfield 4.0 is based primarily on your AXON EQ lights, LINC 360 and LINC Node gateway supporting infrastructure?

Our AXON EQ lights, LINC 360, and the LINC Node gateway are indeed key foundational components of Airfield 4.0. An airfield has many diverse assets spread over a vast area. And, like a human neural network that uses axons to carry sensor input or commands between neurons, our new AXON EQ light fixture can gather situational data from its surroundings.
The addition of built-in sensors to airfield assets, in this case, our AXON EQ inset lights, coupled with the right-sized communication medium, our LINC 360, and the ability to wirelessly stream telemetry and status monitoring to the cloud via our innovative LINC Node gateway, provide the backbone of Airfield 4.0.
However, Airfield 4.0 is actually focused on the outcomes we will enable for our customers. These technologies will come together with other smart assets, advanced connectivity, third-party data sources and new cloud software tools to create solutions that improve efficiency, safety and sustainability.

How will your sensor technology contribute to an automated airfield?

Our sensor technology lies at the very core of giving airfield IoT [Internet of Things] and monitoring systems the ability to provide the data they need to aggregate and present for application. They are a critical piece of this process, equipping potentially any device, especially those that are remote and currently not monitored, to be IoT enabled and share situational data.
And ADB SAFEGATE is building a full intelligence system. Where this comes together is in harnessing the physical assets, lights, sensors and communication channels with LINC 360, and bringing it all together in a cloud-based software ecosystem that we are now actively building.
The idea is to pull all of the data together to specifically address customer use cases and provide actionable insights.
Airfield operations will begin to change exponentially as smart sensors combine their data with trend data to optimise asset management and maintenance, and potential benefits will accrue in many ways. Notably, utilising this data will facilitate understanding of correlations such as why certain device fixtures loosen more quickly, enabling the creation of predictions that facilitate more accurate maintenance schedules and thereby the saving of time, resources and manpower (and so reducing costs).
Plus, smart sensors can help change the nature of airfield operations from manual, periodic inspections processes, to exception-based processes where optimised information is delivered to the right person at the right time to enable specific and efficient actions. For example, during an inspection, a maintenance worker might receive a notification that a fixture is out, meaning the electronics are damaged and requiring replacement.
With the use of smart sensors and gateway communication, a compromised seal in a fixture can be proactively determined and maintenance personnel informed with precision, detailing the specific fixture in a specific location requiring seal replacement. The seal can be inspected and repaired before any actual electronic damage or failure can occur. The cost-saving benefits of this type of optimised maintenance can be extremely significant.
ADB SAFEGATE is developing an advanced sensor suite for elevated lights where the opportunities for options are more readily available. This includes, for example, cameras, automotive radar for aircraft and vehicle detection, wildlife detection, and foreign object debris (FOD) on a runway that is an absolutely critical safety concern for operators.

Has the concept proved popular with your customers?

Several key contracts have already been agreed that include delivery of our Airfield 4.0 products, including a large turnkey project for the greenfield Western Sydney International Airport, Australia’s largest aviation project in many years.

Are you looking to make further additions to your Airfield 4.0 offering?

Our Airfield 4.0 offerings will expand and evolve over the coming months and years. We have already introduced the sensor-enabled AXON EQ inset lights with built-in LINC 360 two-way communication and LINC Node gateways to connect existing assets, such as constant current regulators. In new products, additional connectivity and sensing are being paired with cloud computing tools. These new tools will unleash the potential of the large volumes of data available on the airfield by providing portable, actionable insights.

In what ways do you envisage supporting the move towards smart, interconnected airports and any changes in requirements that your customers might make in line with this?

We certainly see ‘smart, interconnected airports’ as the future. Our industry is facing tremendous sustainability challenges, and ADB SAFEGATE is positioned to help our customers address them.
Taking a holistic view of sustainability, a ‘smart’ airfield will not only require less energy and fewer resources: it will have a sustainability focus that will include indirect impact through increased collaboration between stakeholders, increased service quality through the use of AI/machine learning and social benefits such as safer working conditions.