Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data. This evolving technology has been adapting into the airport space since the FAA launched the Airports GIS program in 2009 for the gathering and storage of airport data. This put the spotlight on GIS as an available data tracking platform to improve how airports currently store and manage various data sets for a range of reasons.
GIS has many benefits with present technology and will continue to become even more valuable with future advancements. Investing in GIS is critical to optimizing an airport’s operational processes and in doing so now will not only improve current procedures but also set an airport up for success in the future.
GIS allows airports to improve a range of processes including asset tracking, lease management, maintenance management, and everyday operations. GIS provides a unique way for airports to map/visualize any important assets as well as visualize airport properties.
GIS is extremely helpful for airports due to the “drill down” capabilities. Not only are you able to map and visualize assets and properties using GIS, but the added benefit is associating helpful data which provides insights into the particular property/asset. With a single click, one could pull up information such as:
- Lease records regarding a specific plot.
- Manuals and maintenance records associated with a particular asset.
- Current inventory of specific parts associated with an asset.
Currently, GIS is an incredibly useful tool for an airport’s operations and, with future improvements, will be even more critical to further enhancing an airport’s operational efficiencies. Aniruddha Banerjee, Ph.D., an expert in GIS technology, explains that advances in predictive digital mapping will help to provide more in-depth operational insights than is currently possible. This technology could potentially analyze GIS data to identify and notify airport stakeholders of problem areas/assets at airports. For example, if an asset needed to be continuously replaced, in a non-random fashion, GIS would be able to identify that there may be underlying issues that are causing this issue and then notify airport personnel of the problem.
Another prospective innovation of GIS is its simulation/modeling capabilities, otherwise known as Simulation GIS. Advances in Simulation GIS will allow for more accurate modeling of various airport specific scenarios. One relevant example would be the modeling of air or ground transport systems. With the potential for mass drone usage at airports, airports will have to prepare for new safety concerns regarding organizing operations for not only manned but unmanned aircraft. Specific safety scenarios through Simulation GIS will be more easily predicted and will assist with informed decision making and strategizing.
When put into action, Simulation GIS can assist an airport in implementing new and improved policies/procedures, an example being the decision on what wind speed should trigger a no-fly zone aided by simulating different wind speed scenarios with Simulation GIS. This technology can also be used for optimizing of ground transport to maximize resource usage, like finding the most efficient routes for taxiing aircraft to their gates.
Additionally, the advancement of light detection and ranging technology, also known as LIDAR, will help provide an accurate 3D measurement of factors that can become part of GIS maps. Many studies, like the LIDAR Deployment for Airport Obstruction Survey from 2010, have shown that using LIDAR technology to map trees allows an airport to accurately plan maintenance, such as tree trimming, using growth simulations. Adding trees, fences, new construction, etc. can allow an airport to have a precise look at every part of the airports’ dynamics.
Utilization of GIS maps supports airport procedures in a variety of ways. Being able to associate data to specific layers and future improvements in predictive mapping and simulation add a resource that increases not only an airports efficiency but also reduces cost. Utilizing GIS is not just critical for present-day functions, but it is essential for future productivity.