Spring 2020

Preventing aircraft damage through collision avoidance

The BodyGuard system from Israel’s Tri-Logical Technologies offers GSE operators another option in their fight to minimise aircraft damage caused by unwanted contact with ramp assets

Many of the bigger GSE suppliers are equipping their products with sophisticated collision avoidance systems as part of their standard package to buyers. These systems offer various functions, including but not limited to alerting the driver to proximity of the GSE to an object (most likely an aircraft), controlling the speed of the equipment as the distance narrows, and recording any incidents of impact.

But such systems are also available separately from specialist system providers – and retrofitting them on older equipment might also be a priority for some GSE operators.

One such specialist is Tri-Logical Technologies, which positions itself as “a leader in mobile resource management solutions”. It offers systems designed for mobile equipment tracking, mapping, alerting, fleet management, maintenance and service management across the civil and defence sectors, including for transport-related applications.

Founded in 1994 and part of the larger Zivav Israeli engineering company, Tri-Logical Technologies offers two systems intended especially for the aviation business, designed to facilitate “better and safer control of ground airside operations for GSE fleet tracking, maintenance and airside workforce management”.

Specifically, its Airport Mobile Assets Solution (AMAS) is a GSE fleet management tool, while its BodyGuard system meets the needs of those looking to minimise or eradicate unwanted aircraft contact with GSE.

Damage prevention

BodyGuard consists of a combination of sensors and telematic technology installed on a ramp asset. It co-ordinates an asset’s approach to an aircraft by controlling its speed and stop procedures. Tri-Logical supplies both the hardware, including the sensors, and the software (although, while it produces the software and most of the hardware itself, it buys sensors from a specialist partner).

Designed with the International Air Transport Association’s rigorous Airport Handling Manual (AHM) 913 standards in mind, the system provides an equipment operator with visual and audible alerts regarding proximity to another object on the ramp, and disables any GSE involved in a collision.

BodyGuard can be retrofitted to any type of GSE, old or new, Tri-Logical says. It can form an integral part of an operator’s wider Safety Management System (SMS). Its individuality lies primarily in combining two unique selling points (USPs), observes Michael Bar-On, vice president products at Tri-Logical: bringing together its adaptability and flexibility – “One size fits all”, he says – and its certified adherence to strict IATA standards, alongside the command and control system that lies at the heart of BodyGuard.

This latter system is the proprietary, patent-pending Adaptive Brake Control (ABC) technology that can be fitted to all types of engine/power train. The ABC software algorithms simulate a driver’s braking actions to ensure optimal slow approach options in close proximity of an aircraft.

Success in operation

BodyGuard has been deployed in recent months by a certain Middle Eastern handler and as a result, says Tri-Logical, the ground service provider (GSP) immediately realised significant improvements in ramp safety. Since the start of last year, the handler has benefitted from retrofitting BodyGuard to several dozen different types of GSE within its fleet that together have handled more than 11,000 flights.

Since then, according to Tri-Logical, BodyGuard has recorded over 500 near misses for the GSP, in which the system automatically halted a unit’s movement toward an aircraft to prevent a possible collision.

The system has recorded any impact indication, enabling safety and operations managers to gather data and investigate each and every touch or near miss.

Moreover, says Tri-Logical: “The system also enabled the GSP to create a single harmonised system deployed on the different GSE to enable a quick and easy learning curve for the operations team, drivers and supervisors.”

In fact, since BodyGuard’s deployment by the handler on those few dozen pieces of the handler’s GSE, “No damage has been inflicted on aircraft fuselages from system-equipped GSE.”

All of this cuts down on costs incurred as a result of ramp damage, improves operating safety procedures, prevents delays to aircraft turnarounds caused by ramp rash, and even potentially lower future insurance premiums for GSE operators.

This handler is just one of a growing BodyGuard client base that Tri-Logical is developing – including, for example, Quality Airport Services (QAS), the Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion International Airport-based handler partly owned by Swissport, a large Turkish GSP and a Middle Eastern airline.

Multiple benefits

“BodyGuard is the only sensor and telemetry system in the market that can be deployed on any GSE from any manufacturer, on every GSE type and on any model,” its developer asserts. It can be installed on new equipment and retrofitted on older units, and is fully compliant with the latest standards laid down by IATA and its ISAGO (IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations).

BodyGuard operates and looks the same on all equipment and therefore both training and operation are easy, Bar-On points out. Meanwhile, the extensive data set recorded by the system can be analysed and relevant reports created not only to improve training procedures at the GSE operator, but also to maximise performance of equipment operators.

BodyGuard was only brought to market as recently as August 2018, Bar-On recalls, driven by demand from a local GSE operator wanting access to a telematics and fleet management capability. Now installed on equipment as wide-ranging as high loaders, belt conveyors, passenger steps, service platforms, and GSE trucks and lifts (including ambulifts), its applicability is wide-ranging.

Tri-Logical is particularly targeting what Bar-On calls “proactive” GSPs and self-handling airlines: those wanting to reduce incidents of damage and handle their ground operations more safely.

These may primarily operate in Europe, Asia and the US at the moment, but because of the IATA AHM changes, alongside the ever-increasing numbers of carriers who are pressing their handlers to prove they have a ‘no-touch’ policy for GSE and aircraft, the market for retrofitting GSE fleets with a system like BodyGuard is sure to become ever larger, Bar-On concludes.