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Looking at Airports of the Future

David Burgundy | 16 Mar 2017

As busy and buzzing as airports can be, they are always the subject of constant new innovations to make travellers’ experiences smoother and more enjoyable. Airports are an unavoidable fact of today’s world, with as many as hundreds of millions of people passing through the world’s busiest airports each year.

This trend is not about to slow down, either, by the year 2026, aviation is expected to contribute a whopping $1 trillion to the world’s GDP, serving as an invaluable source of income for local economies across the planet. However, along with these pros are some notable cons, including the fact that aviation contributes over 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport methods combined.

This means a notable impact on the environment, especially considering that air traffic has grown more than 250% in the last two decades. Luckily, new technological and scientific innovations are coming to the rescue to make air travel easier, more comfortable, and increasingly environmentally friendly.

Alternative Transport OptionsAirports of the Future

Low cost and efficient transport options will be a key area in the airports of the future. Driverless electrical or battery-powered vehicles like ‘the pods’ that debuted at Heathrow in 2008 may serve as low carbon emission shuttles to and from airports. The pods at Heathrow have saved over 100 tons of CO2 a year, and have also reduced the number of bus journeys to and from car parks by 70,000 trips. European airports like Oslo are soon to follow suit with electrical vehicles that provide convenient travel to and from airport terminals and Uber is investigating the feasibility of a driverless taxi.

Alternative energy will also be a big factor all around, with solar and wind power used to power terminal buildings. Oslo Airport is promoting on-tap biojet fuel and hydrogen alternative fuel filling stations on site. Airside vehicles may also get an electrical upgrade in the near future to help cut back on CO2 emissions, and pre-conditioned air units in planes will help to heat and cool airbuses using a more earth-friendly power source.

Travel Simplified by Innovation

Innovation in airport terminals and for travellers has been a highly researched field by innovators as well. Additions to airports like green ‘living walls’ and relaxation rooms could soon be a reality, and a design for a farm at JFK International Airport may even provide travelling diners with fresh food and herbs grown on-site.

On a more personal note, Google Glass technologies and panoramic holograms could help individuals to book their flights more quickly and effectively, minimising missed flights and cancellations. Semantic, location-aware technology is currently being developed to enable travellers to more effectively visualise data related to their travels. Furthermore, personalised travel services could use intuitive algorithms to know individuals’ preferences in terms of flight classes, hotels, regularity of travel and more.

Robotic Innovations

Robotics will no doubt feature in the airports of the future, most notably to make travellers’ lives simpler during what would normally be a rushed period of time. California-based Travelmate Robotics is in the process of developing autonomous luggage that travellers can link to their smartphones.

The luggage will follow them around of its own accord, and safety measures like intelligent alarms are being put in place to prevent theft. Technologies like the suitcase will make travelling easier and more comfortable in the future. Again, semantic technologies could play a big role at airports in automatically checking in visitors and streamlining security gateways, although these innovations are still in their early days.

Regardless, regular travellers can soon expect to see airports that are greener, more convenient, and more innovative on every level. Booking flights and hotels will become second nature thanks to intelligent personal technology, and the environment will also benefit from transport methods that use safer and more efficient fuels wherever possible. It may sound futuristic, but all these changes are practically around the corner, signalling a brighter future for the airports of tomorrow.