The Future of Advanced Air Mobility and Counter Drones in the Airport Environment

ACI World by ACI World | Jun 28, 2022

ACI Insights sat down with Jean-Sebastien Pard, ACI World’s Senior Manager of Facilitation, Passenger Services and Operations, and Nicholas Ratledge, ACI World’s Senior Manager of Security, Safety and Operations to discuss the seamless integration of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) into the airport environment and the launch of the Counter Drones Knowledge Centre.

Nicholas, as we introduce the next generation of advanced mobility in the air, we also need to address the need to keep the airspace at our airports safe from unintentional or the malicious use of unmanned systems or smaller drones.

NR: That is correct. Airports need to have access to resources and information on the prevention of unauthorized drone and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) activities that would interfere with safe airport and air traffic operations.  To address this ACI, in collaboration with Vigilant Drone Defense Systems, has developed the Counter Drones Knowledge Centre for its membership and the industry as a whole.

Counter Drones Knowledge Centre
Learn more

What does this entail for aviation professionals and what frameworks are available that can potentially apply to advanced air mobility?

NR: The knowledge centre collects a wide range of publicly available guidance material and policies on the topic of drone risk mitigation from around the world. It provides airports and the public with a global “one stop shop” reference base of information. The knowledge centre focuses heavily on the use of drones legally, the different global legal frameworks that can be referenced, as well as the various prevention measures that are in place globally.

There is a risk that there will be unintentional or possible malicious use of drones around airports in the future. What sort of mitigations does this webpage provide?

NR: The counter drone chapter investigates the various mitigation methods ranging from detection, tracking, and identification methods to more physical and countermeasure responses. The most common element that is used is the need for detection and tracking of unauthorized drones and the chapter places an emphasis on the different technologies that are available such as radar and radio frequency mitigations. However, the need for more physical mitigations such as electronic jamming or use of kinetic means to remove drones are also explored. It should be noted though that these are examples of what could be done, and that each airport should refer to their national regulations when determining what is allowed to be used to counter drone activities.

Jean-Sebastien, could you tell us more about the recently released ACI Policy Brief on AAM? Why is this important for our airport members?

JSP: The publication sets forth ACI’s positions and key policy statements on the integration of AAM into the airport environment. On a global level, the growth in the development of electric and hybrid aircraft for urban, suburban, and rural operations is exponential. We thought it would be essential to address the challenges and opportunities in terms of capacity, aircraft, and operation certification, infrastructure requirements, and regulatory developments just to name a few, as the AAM ecosystem moves from concept to reality in the near future. Airport operators must become aware of the topic and begin considering the potential impacts these new operations will have on their airport in the coming years.

Policy Brief on AAM
Read it now

Can you elaborate on ACI’s position on the development of the AAM ecosystem? Does it consider these new entrants as allies or rather as opponents to airports?

JSP: ACI supports the development of this new sector of the aviation industry as there are many advantages that can be gained through the implementation and growth of the AAM ecosystem. We think that airports can harness these exciting new opportunities and integrate them into their operating and business models. Considering the current challenging times of the airport and air travel industry, we think that AAM will bring added value to local communities, businesses, as well as facilitate the societal transformation towards a more sustainable ecosystem.

AAM will also play a role in creating a more dynamic and progressive future as it embraces these innovative means of transportation. These new entrants can be seen as a unique opportunity to attract new generations of aviation personnel into the sector, potentially alleviating some of the current pressures that we are all experiencing. Staff shortages are significant within the aviation industry, and we think that AAM can potentially showcase a new aviation system that can attract and retain a large number of high-quality, technology-focused people to work at airports.

You mentioned earlier that the arrival of AAM will impact the airport environment of the future. Could you specify some of ACI policy statements that have been identified in the brief that we should be aware of?

JSP: The policy statements in the ACI brief have been formulated as recommendations to airport operators, regulators, or organizations developing AAM aircraft. For example, airport operators should be made aware of the performance of the equipment needed to service the AAM aircraft that will be taking off and landing at their airport. On the other hand, we also specify that AAM aircraft manufacturers should ensure that their aircraft are compatible with current and future airport infrastructure and operating models. It is also stipulated that AAM operators should not bring new aviation security risks at airports, including cybersecurity concerns.

Finally, I could also add that one of the policy statements highlighted is for airport operators to consider future infrastructure and operational requirements, including impacts on noise and capacity, for accommodating AAM aircraft, support systems, and technologies as part of their master planning process. Considering that airport master plans are developed for new and existing airports to guide their longer-term development and business strategy, now is the time to take into consideration the implications related to these new entrants and how they will impact airports’ infrastructure, systems, processes, and tools.

ACI World
19 articles
Share This