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Leaving on a jet plane - with RFID

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 connection time.

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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 area.

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 be opened.

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!

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Sources:

RFID for Airports and Airlines

Legner & Thiesse (2006): RFID-Based Facility Maintenance at Frankfurt Airport

Airport baggage systems go high-tech: handling with care 

 

2 comments on “Leaving on a jet plane - with RFID”

  1. Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 11:38:17 AM

    You have great blog but I am afraid how RFID can help regarding safety on airplane?
    Passenger always looking for safety when arriving at the airport so it can be good for all who are looking for safe journey.

  2. Posted Wednesday, September 06, 2017 at 7:38:39 AM

    Its a very informative post for me. Thanks.

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