Five Ways a Virtual Twin Can Benefit an Airport

by Roger Roche
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Part 2 of a 3-Part Series on Airports by Isaac Benzaquen and Jerry Schwinghammer

Tomorrow’s airport cannot be achieved with yesterday’s solutions. With today’s old airport technology, the challenges will be difficult to overcome. In all the pressures an airport is experiencing it is important to see these challenges as an opportunity to significantly change for the better.

As mentioned in a related article, the Virtual Twin is the link between virtual and physical environments. Virtual Twin technology is on the scene for many industries and delivering value and return. Embracing this new virtual twin technology will enable airports to achieve their innovation goals.

The virtual twin encapsulates the overall airport’s life cycle. There are five elements where a virtual twin is of benefit to airports.

1. Ideation

Airports are continuously seeking for new ideas to make airports more than infrastructures, but real living places. One of the routes to improving the journey is by creating a 3D virtual experience, simulate the idea and validate its benefits. This 3D virtual experience can then be used to communicate with airport stakeholders to secure necessary capital funding. The value proposition is that stakeholders have higher confidence early on that money will be spent wisely and the decision cycle can be radically shortened from years to weeks.

2. Design and Engineering

The Virtual Twin provides a collaborative environment to federate all supplier deliverables around a unique 3D mockup to converge much faster on final design. Then verify and validate the subcontractors design conditions and physical dimensions. The conformance of the final 3D design to initial requirements and FAA regulations can be readily shown. Tenants will benefit from a better controlled process and can achieve on plan, on cost, on time delivery. Failure to do so will increase design cost and reduce design quality of the terminal, which will increase overall airport CAPEX and OPEX.

3. Construction

By leveraging the Virtual Twin, project delivery teams are able to simulate how construction or renovations impact airport operations. The overall operational impact of taking major infrastructure out of service, such as a terminal, can be simulated. Once evaluated then an effective and proactive operational plan can be put in place to minimize disruption.

4. Sales and Marketing

There are many opportunities for marketing opened up by the Virtual Twin. The first is to entertain and make the passenger’s journey more enjoyable. The second one is to increase revenue. The third opportunity is to bring innovations into improving passenger experience.

The passenger’s journey is made more enjoyable by leveraging the virtual twin to create AR and VR applications. Airports can increase revenues by being able to create a virtual shopping experience. Marketing can validate the passenger experience elements as well as explore new innovative concepts in a virtual environment. Additionally, employing Virtual Twin eliminates the need for real photo shoots and costly film sets for a new marketing campaign.

5. Operations (Maintenance and passenger flow)

There are two primary operational roles for the Virtual Twin – Maintenance and Operations.

In the maintenance field the Virtual Twin provides a platform to monitor and analyze sensor information to predict an asset failure. Further, it provides a diagnostic tool by simulating what went wrong. All this information is captured and communicated in 3D to the field via the Work Order to accelerate investigation and reduce maintenance costs.

In the Operations arena the simulation in 3D provides a better understanding for daily operations. It provides a holistic, 3D view on how planning interacts with airport activities such as construction, renovation or other events which may cause irregular operations. Mitigation scenarios can be simulated to address the impacts and shorten times to recovery.

This avoids costs and delays such as turn-around times and most importantly congested passenger flows. It will be imperative that the virtual model provides a reasonable and trustworthy representation of what would happen in real life.

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