Aviation industry is taking advantage of tracking with RFID in versatile operations. Here we present a few use cases, which have seen RFID enhancing the aviation operations.
RFID enables identifying without the requirement for line of
sight as RFID utilizes radio waves for communication. Aviation
industry, where the line of sight is unreachable when handling
large volumes in short time period, provides a perfect platform for
adoption of new and more efficient technologies. RFID has gained a
foothold in the industry, and not only in handling baggage.
Searching for your goods
What does the passenger first do when arriving at the airport?
Checks in for the flight and drops in the luggage. If asked from an
ordinary passenger about the potential RFID use cases in the
aviation industry, the answer would be the most likely "Baggage, of
course. They get lost and are often late and sometimes never
return." This is the most common perception, and the fact is that
it is also the most common application area for RFID.
In baggage handling, the volumes are high and therefore manual
work is aimed to be minimized. The first airport RFID system was
installed in 2008, and new systems have been implemented
continuously ever since. The ultimate reason for choosing RFID
relates to improving the passenger service, but also to
streamlining operations, decreasing manual work, and looking for
actual savings - finding the missing luggage is always cheaper than
compensating the lost one. When it comes to saving costs, Hong Kong
Airport, a pioneer of using RFID in baggage tracking, states that
the average cost of handling bags decreased from $7 to $4 with the
help of RFID.
In connecting flights, it is crucial that both the baggage and
the passenger travel in the same flight. We know that sometimes
this is not the case. Sometimes the passenger flies without the
baggage, and if the passenger misses the connection flight the
baggage needs to be taken out of the airplane. Helsinki Airport in
Finland is a popular stop for connection flights, and they decided
to take RFID into action for a specific reason. They receive large
volumes of baggage for example from Hong Kong Airport and Schiphol
Airport (the Netherlands), which both are using RFID among other
airports. The RFID implementation in Helsinki provided a missing
link for speeding up with the baggage coming from these
destinations, a high terminal efficiency and an ultra-fast
Below the wings
In order to get the airplanes up in the air, several operations
need to be executed behind the scenes. In addition to baggage
handling, RFID can be also applied in the asset management and in
ground services. The service and repair personnel use tools and
supplies, which can be RFID tagged and then easily tracked when
needed or missing.
The staff uniforms can be UHF tagged for streamlining the
laundry service process. After the employees return their clothes
for laundry, the clothes are sorted, washed and then delivered into
the right place. It can be observed that no clothes are missing and
the broken ones can be replaced.
Baggage is not the only object that moves in and out from the
cargo hold. Also the "ordinary" cargo can be tagged, which improves
operations. Moreover, tagging the parts freight enables the IAT
e-freight initiative. Another object moving in to the airplane,
which is not inevitable coming in mind, is the catering service.
RFID can help in reducing wastage in food trolleys and connecting a
special diet portion with the right passenger.
Personnel tracking is also a way of monitoring the quality of
ground services. Identifying the people moving in the ground
services area guarantees that no unauthorized people are in the
For your own safety
RFID can also be used in improving safety. In the airplane, the
life vest is stored in a tricky place, under the seat. Performing
an inventory among the life vests inside the airplane is a tough
job if you need to check every life vest separately. When using
RFID, the inventory can be performed standing on the aisle. This
applies also to the maintenance and general safety check of the
airplane, like safety equipment and oxygen masks. No hatch needs to
Fraport AG (Frankfurt Airport) has taken RFID
very far with the safety operations. They have installed multiple
fire shutters, fire doors, smoke detectors and other equipment that
require regular repair and maintenance. In order to monitor the
service personnel work, Fraport has implemented an RFID-based
solution. They have a mobile app for technicians that is integrated
with their current asset management systems. The results of the
system implementation are better locationing of the
units-needed-to-be-repaired, better maintenance documentation and
better process quality, which in total increase the overall safety
of both the personnel and the passengers.
With RFID, we can wish you a safe flight!
RFID for Airports and Airlines
Legner & Thiesse (2006): RFID-Based
Facility Maintenance at Frankfurt Airport
Airport baggage systems go high-tech: handling with