08 Jan Leveraging technology for aerodrome safety


To handle Singapore’s projected air traffic growth in the next decades, Singapore Changi Airport is undergoing extensive development works on runways and a new terminal. Construction work is being carried out daily near fully operational runways and taxiways. Maintaining the safety of airport operations in the proximity of such large-scale construction is a huge challenge for the airport and air traffic control.

The right surveillance technology provides a robust line of hazard defence.

Obstacle and incursions

The plan, known locally as the Changi East Development, is for a three-runway system by 2022 and a new terminal by the early 2030s. The development involves mobilising large numbers of construction workers, machines and equipment onto the airfield and around the airport. Airport authorities and air traffic control must both ensure that the safety of aircraft operations and personnel working on the airfield is not compromised, while balancing the need for progress to ensure that the new infrastructure is delivered on-schedule.

Incursion prevention, obstacles and FOD control are key challenges. Preventive control measures such as education and awareness are certainly a pre-requisite. Inspections by enforcement personnel can add to the recovery measures to help prevent any non-compliance from leading to very serious accidents.

The right technology

Unfortunately, in the constantly changing airport environment, people will always be prone to errors and omissions. The effectiveness of worker awareness deteriorates under pressure for productivity and progress. Inspections are manpower intensive, non-continuous, and subjected to environmental conditions.

The right surveillance technology provides a robust line of hazard defence, especially when deployed for specific airport safety management functions. For example, geo-fencing can be deployed on the airfield to alert the control centre when a transponder-equipped worker strays outside designated work areas. Multi-lateral systems track vehicles equipped with transponders operating on the airfield, and multi-sensor systems utilising cameras and 4G broadband networks detect and locate equipment that infringes on obstacle limitation surfaces. Electro-optic sensors can be deployed to detect FOD on runways under all weather and lighting conditions, 24/7.

Automated surveillance for high airport safety standards

Using technology reduces the reliance on manpower for surveillance and enforcing compliance in large, complex operational airport environments. This kind of surveillance is continuous, passive, and non-intrusive, thus allowing construction activities to proceed without unnecessary disruptions. Knowing that “Big Brother” is continuously watching also incentivises human behaviour towards compliance. Of course, certain individuals will still test the system, knowingly or otherwise.

Millions of construction man-hours have been put into the Changi East Development without a single serious incident or accident. These technologies have been a key contributor to an admirable airport safety record, and it is a testament to the effectiveness of automated surveillance. Surveillance applications for aerodrome operational and construction safety are smart tools for any airports embarking on ambitious expansion projects while still maintaining high standards of operational airport safety.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to www.to70.com.

Photo by: Lars Curfs

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Boon Chai Lim
Boon Chai Lim
Boon Chai is Managing Director and Senior Consultant at to70’s office in Singapore. Since August 2017, he has been advising contractors involved in the Changi East development on aerodrome operations and safety requirements, assisting with work planning, review of method statements, conduct of risk assessments, management of stakeholders and aerodrome safety training, leveraging his training as a civil engineer, prior experience managing projects in the airfield, and track record as aerodrome safety regulator. More recently, he has advised contractors tendering for airport projects in Singapore and the Middle East.
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