GUESS HOW MANY BILLIONS OF PASSENGERS WILL TRAVEL ON A PLANE THIS YEAR?The world’s airports have never been busier, neither have the skies. In April 2017 alone, air passenger demand grew at its fastest rate in six years, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Russia posted the fastest domestic rate the same month, followed by India. And this year, the IATA predicts that commercial aircraft will carry nearly four billion passengers. What’s more, the rapid growth of air travel in developing markets – especially in Asia – means these numbers will continue to rise at an alarming rate.
“Air traffic is still doubling every 15 years and has historically proven remarkably resilient to external events. Capacity at many large hubs is already stretched and this trend will increase as less mature markets fulfill demand. Punctuality and speed of throughput are both impacted by capacity strains,” says the Strategy Director at the International Bureau of Aviation, Paul Lyons. Against this backdrop of staggering statistics, controlling air traffic is understandably more complex and challenging than ever. Add into the mix extraneous factors, such as potential terrorist attacks and extreme weather conditions, and air navigation can be fraught and dangerous – and one of the toughest jobs there is. The technology behind air travel is also an unsung hero. From radar control and surveillance systems, to ground-based and satellite-based equipment and landing systems, Information Communication Technology (ICT) is keeping our airports and our airways safe.
Another exciting emerging technology that has the potential to transform safety at airports, and it’s called ‘Crowd Behaviour Analysis’. Pioneered by leading Japanese ICT solutions experts – NEC – this world-first technology can analyse real-time data using security cameras at airports to detect any abnormal crowd phenomena – such as overcrowding or people running away. Airports that decide to use this technology will have the power to stop a threat turning into a disaster. With such relentless demands on airports, the future of air travel has to be both safe and efficient. On a Friday afternoon between 2 and 4pm UTC (coordinated universal time) in July or August, more than 16,000 flights could be in the air at one time in the world, according to FlightRadar24. We’ve been travelling in the air for 103 years now, but the challenges grow greater by the day. It’s not humans, but technology that’s going to be able to take on these challenges in the future – and win.