I recently moderated a webinar with aviation industry leaders Christoph Schnellmann, CEO, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited / Delhi Noida International Airport; Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO, Delhi International Airport Private Limited and Venkat Swaminathan, Vice President and Country General Manager, India & SAARC – Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric India, as panelists. Topic of the discussion was how airports could be built resilient and how digital technologies can extend enhanced operational and passenger experience, optimise facility management, ensure 24×7 operational readiness, confirm business continuity and safeguard the environment.
An emerging airport is a futuristic airport that is built with resilient infrastructure comparable to a Smart City by integrating physical, interactive, and human frameworks. This brings with it a multitude of external challenges, along with growing year-on-year passenger traffic, such as tighter security and increased regulation, greater human experience and provision for phased capacity expansion. If airports have to act as stand-alone communities, a resilient infrastructure needs to be designed to meet the various demands of these airports.
But, how can airports face the challenges posed by rising population, increased urbanization and resultant ever-increasing traffic growth?
The response lies in building the Resilient Airports of Tomorrow that can meet the demands of rising air traffic through a collaborative digital environment to ensure secure, efficient, effective and sustainable airport operations. Airports are vulnerable to many threats such as terrorism, accidents, supply chain disruption, natural calamities, cyber-attacks, vandalism, pandemic like Covid etc. and any of these disruptive events can interrupt the seamless operation or even parallelise the business. Resiliency is the ability for any airport to anticipate, react and recover from the impacts of disruptive events swiftly. Core properties that define a resilient airport are:
- Robustness: The tendency of the airport infrastructure and processes to remain unchanged when exposed to shock/disruptive forces.
- Rapidity: An airports ability to recover from an undesired event promptly.
And how can we develop an airport that is resilient? Well, it has two facets.
The first facet, is to have the right infrastructure based on a performance-based design, green infrastructure, smart technology, reliable and redundant utilities, sustainable ground access, security against cyber-attacks, resilient to fire and natural calamities etc.
The second element of a resilient airport relates to operations, with comprehensive operational plans and procedures in place. That means controlling the airport carbon emissions efficiently, ensuring systematic asset management alongside sustainable operations, modernising airspace, safeguarding wildlife threats, solely data-driven decision-making system, and ensuring community and stakeholder involvement at all levels.
It is important to remember that, relative to a non-resilient airport, a resilient airport anticipates disruptive events and is prepared to cope with such adversity. A fascinating point is that a resilient airport can perform much better, even during a crisis. Typically, this would happen in times of any crisis or natural disaster, when rescue operations would take place at that airport. In times of a natural calamity or any human made disasters, and ensuing economic crisis, all non-resilient airports would shut down fully or partially or struggle to function due to crippled infrastructure and serious financial difficulties. This may become an opportunity for a resilient airport to increase its market share owing to inevitable diversions from other regional airports. That’s how airport infrastructure, facilities and systems should behave – despite the inevitable threats or crises faced by these airports, they would overcome the negative impact of the disruptive events quicker and become sturdier to operate even better than before.