Automation, Smart Tower, IoT, 3D printing - Range of technology initiatives in Singapore’s Air Transport Industry Transformation Map
The Air Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), released yesterday by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), aims to achieve real value-added growth of 16% from 2015 to 2020 and boost productivity by 3-4% per annum. In addition, it sets a target of creating more than 8,000 new jobs in the sector by 2025.
Developing and implementing ITMs is one of the key strategies in the Committe on the Future Economy (CFE) report released earlier this year.
The Air Transport ITM has four thrust areas: 1) Innovation, 2) Productivity, 3) Jobs and Skills, and 4) Enterprise and within each area, the ITM outlines specific strategies.
The Air Transport Industry Tripartite Committee1 (ITC), comprising 16 key representatives from industry, unions and government developed the Air Transport ITM. The ITC will also oversee the implementation of initiatives.
For promoting innovation, CAAS will set up test beds and support companies in experimenting with new technology and processes to solve urgent challenges faced by the aviation industry.
For example, a first-in-the-world Automated Passenger Loading Bridge is being developed by ST Engineering’s advanced engineering centre, which will use precision lasers and cameras, with smart algorithms, to guide the docking process safely and autonomously, even under harsh weather conditions.
Aviation Challenges have been launched to automate labour-intensive processes, in areas such as narrow-body aircraft baggage handling, and build-up and breakdown of cargo pallets and containers.
Currently, seven teams are developing prototype systems, expected to be completed this year. Solutions being explored include automatic baggage scanning stations, robotic arms, exoskeleton suits to support baggage lifting, and automated conveyor belt systems. Selected solutions can be further developed and prepared for implementation, commercialisation and even export.
Earlier this year, a $50-million Living Lab Programme was launched to serve as a platform for collaboration with innovation-driven companies and startups, to develop and demonstrate new technology solutions, in a live airport environment. Some of its recent projects include the Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) initiative for automated self-service passenger processing and taxi queue analytics.
Currently, Changi Airport Group (CAG), SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC; provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of aircraft to more than 80 international airlines worldwide), and SATS (provides gateway services and food solutions) have their own innovation/technology offices. CAAS will establishing an Aviation Transformation Programme Office to coordinate and synergise these existing efforts with companies, research institutes (RIs) and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs).
To build core capabilities, CAAS has issued an invitation to tender for the development and trial of a Smart Tower prototype for remote air traffic control operations. The Smart Tower is supposed to provide a completely digitised real-time view of the aerodrome from state-of-the-art digital camera systems, allowing air traffic controllers access to advanced surveillance and information tools. Resulting benefits would include enhanced operational efficiency, increased visibility during hazy, low light or night conditions, improved line-of-sight and enhanced situational awareness.
CAAS is exploring the use of space-based VHF, (Very High Frequency) where VHF equipment is mounted onto low-earth orbit satellites. Current ground-based VHF is unable to cover the whole Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR), and controllers have to use HF, the availability of which is subject to atmospheric conditions and susceptible to interference.
There are several productivity improvement initiatives underway through redesign of work processes, and encouraging new ways of doing business.
SATS has successfully completed Autonomous Guided Vehicle trials to transport food items between food stores and meal tray assembly lines, at its inflight catering centre, reducing preparation time by nearly 40%. The use of autonomous vehicles and AGVs is now being explored in other airport processes.
SIAEC has deployed a one-man remote-controlled aircraft pushback air tug, to enable a pushback operation by a single person on narrow body aircraft, instead of the current requirement of two. There are plans to scale up.
Last December, SATS integrated Internet of Things (IoT) technology into daily ramp operations in the form of Smart Watches and Bluetooth bone conductor headsets.
dnata Singapore, the ground handling service provider is planning to implement a GPS Fleet Management System (GFMS). GFMS is an integrated ground support equipment (GSE) monitoring system with Global Positioning System (GPS), WiFi/3G interface with programmed control modules to provide real-time equipment monitoring and operators' driving behaviour analytics. The data will be transmitted to the dnata operations command centre.
In another interesting development, CAAS is looking into 3D-printed cabin parts. SIAEC has obtained CAAS’ approval for design and production of Additive Manufactured (AM) cabin interior parts. In January 2017, SIAEC installed the first batch of 3D printed parts onto an A380 aircraft.
There are also plans to equip Frontline Passenger Service Agents (PSAs) with tablets and portable printers to assist passengers in their check-in processes and any payment needs under Jetstar Asia’s upcoming Max Airport programme which offers a suite of customer-centric initiatives.
Jobs and skills
The SATS eCommerce AirHub allows SATS to handle over 1,800 mail bags per hour through intelligent processing capabilities for scanning and data processing of mail bags. There has been a 30% improvement in productivity and higher level jobs, have been created, such as an “e-Hub Specialist” role .
In addition, there are multiple initiatives to develop and deepen skillsets required for the air transport industry of the future. These stretch from school level to higher education and professionals looking to make a mid-career shift. For instance, there is an Aviation in Schools Initiative (ASI) to help schools develop aviation-infused environments for their students to entrench their interest in aviation.
CAAS is working with ITE (Institute of Technical Education; it is a public vocational education institution in Singapore) to explore expanding the range of aviation offerings to prepare students for technical ground operations roles in the sector, including in areas such as apron and ramp operations, baggage operations and in-flight catering. CAAS is also exploring a degree in air transport at the undergraduate level.
CAAS has introduced the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Air Transport (Ground Operations Officer). There are plans to roll out more PCPs for other roles such as Station Managers and Airline Officer and Executive.
CAAS,together with tripartite partners, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Temasek Polytechnic, has developed the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme (ELP) for Air Transport. This is a work-learn programme designed to give fresh ITE graduates a head-start in the air transport sector for two job roles - as Passenger Services Agents and Ground Operations Specialist (Equipment Operator).
The objective in this thrust area is to grow local businesses and encourage them to expand abroad.
CAAS is planning a Call for Proposal (CFP) to collaborate with end-users and drone companies for testing innovative use cases for drones, to help catalyse new technology development and allow CAAS to develop new regulatory frameworks with industry.
1Representatives in the Tripartite Committee are from Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Manpower, Workforce Singapore, the National Trades Union Congress, Aviation and Aerospace Cluster Unions, Changi Airport Group, Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Budget Aviation Holdings, Jetstar Asia, Singapore Airlines Cargo, SIA Engineering Company, SATS, and dnata. Read the press release here.Read the Factsheet on the Air Transport ITM here.