How Lidar Sensors are Helping Airports to be COVID-Safe

A lidar-based real-time crowd analytics solution has recently helped Orlando International Airport create one of the world’s safest terminals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using lidar sensors, people moving around a building can be tracked thereby dramatically improving the usability, safety and cleanliness of large spaces. 

Seven Vista lidar sensors at Orlando International Airport are able to pass data between each other, allowing seamless tracking of the same person across large overlapping areas. This covers almost 100 per cent of the terminal area of roughly 50,000 square feet.

Unlike surveillance cameras, lidar sensors do not capture biometric data, making the data anonymised and compliant with privacy laws. They also perform accurately regardless of lighting conditions.

Lidar airport

Picture: The Indoor Lab’s Safe Place™ solution uses the intelligent lidar data from Cepton’s Helius™ Smart Lidar System to deliver ground-breaking visual analytics of the foot traffic at Orlando International Airport. Image credit: The Indoor Lab.

Social Distancing and Floorplans 

Deployed by The Indoor Lab, the leading provider for monitoring real-time foot traffic using lidar sensors, the solution, called Safe Place™, uses Cepton’s award-winning Helius™ Smart Lidar System. 

According to The Indoor Lab, the full solution implemented in Orlando led to a drastic improvement in people’s adherence to social distancing through Thanksgiving and into the busy holiday travel season.

The software can also be used to help optimise layouts in aisles, walkways and retail spaces, as well as addressing safety risks. Data on crowd density, dwell times, motion tracking and speed of individuals can be used to manage queues and reduce crowding.

Crowd Tracking

The project at Orlando International Airport is one of several early projects initiated by The Indoor Lab and Cepton as part of a strategic partnership. The companies hope to collaborate to help enable a more efficient design of public and private commercial spaces, and improve public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.

Patrick Blattner, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of The Indoor Lab said: “We have a 15-year history of crowd tracking across retail, events, airports, and stadiums. So, when COVID-19 started spreading exponentially and negatively affected many public and private spaces, we consulted with leaders involved in drafting proposals for the International Franchise Association, including the use of lidar technology to help put the country back on a path towards normalcy. 

“With public concerns focused on cleanliness of public and commercial spaces, we extended our Safe PlaceTM platform beyond occupancy and social distancing, creating the first proprietary real-time sanitization detection solution in the market. A Safe Place™ enabled environment ensures locations have been cleaned, distancing measures are followed, and safer occupancy levels are maintained. Our partnership with Cepton helped us deliver against this promise. Our patent-pending Safe PlaceTM platform with real-time cleaning detection is the first of its kind in the world.” 

Picture: a photograph of an image showing people moving through an airport terminal. Aircraft can be seen from the windows

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 14 January 2021

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SITA and Etihad Airways reveal a smarter path to crew safety and efficient operations

by Gustavo Pina Director, SITA Lab

The impact of COVID-19 has tipped the air transport industry into turmoil with planes grounded for much of 2020 and significant economic and operational challenges to solve.

The industry has moved quickly to find new solutions to meet the new health measures required by the pandemic. From head-mounted thermal scanners to social distancing technology, an accelerated rate of technology adoption reassures passengers that their flight will be safe. 

At the start of the pandemic, airline operations helped ensure the delivery of cargo planes containing critical supplies for countries most at risk and facilitated the repatriation of citizens. This work required airport and airline staff to work through the peaks of infection.

Now as many countries in Western Europe strap into their second lockdown, we are excited to be trialing a new solution that addresses some safety concerns of crew members. 

Working with a trusted partner like Etihad Airways at Abu Dhabi Airport we were able to apply our next-generation biometric technology to address key concerns for crew members and boost the airline’s efficiency. The objective was to create a better system for entry and exit to the restricted Crew Briefing Center (CBC). Our challenges were clear:

  • Reduce lining up and speed up the crew check-in process at the CBC, reduce flight preparations stress and in turn improve crew morale and energy levels
  • Enable a low touch process to mitigate COVID-19 risk by using facial recognition technology
  • Integrate ‘biometrics on-the-go’ convenience for the crew to use their smartphones
  • Enable an automated flight roster retrieval and roll call using facial recognition cameras

Having implemented SITA Smart Path, our low touch passenger solution at leading airports globally including Miami Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport  BCIA, and having a good understanding of how mobile-solutions can turn a passenger’s phone into their remote control for travel, we felt equipped to address these challenges.

Layers of complexity were added by the strict security regulations required. Making the technology accessible and intuitive for staff was also a high priority. Bring your own device (BYOD) was a key element of the project and why we developed a crew iPhone check-in app.

The face recognition uses Apple’s True Depth camera technology and there is also a shared iPad check-in app that allows the crew to answer regulatory compliance security and safety questions. Should there be any issue with a crew member’s mobile phone, several iPads have also been deployed at the CBC which the crew can use if they need to. A supervisor web portal enables monitoring of this activity and visibility on crew status.

We’re excited to partner with Etihad to trial the facial biometric services as part of the airline’s digitalization strategy.

Captain Sulaiman Yaqoobi, Vice President Flight Operations, Etihad Aviation Group said: “Etihad is constantly on the lookout for innovative solutions that will drive improvements in the airline’s operations and enhance the experience for guests and employees. We believe that facial recognition technology has the potential to enhance the efficiency and security of airline operations and are happy to be partners with SITA in this trial.”

Although this is a Proof of Concept running until late February 2021, we are hopeful the findings will lead to a broader solution for the industry at a time when crew and passenger safety is under the microscope.

Concepts from SITA’s innovation team have a successful track record of becoming commercial solutions. One example of a productized project is SITA’s CrewTab, a powerful yet easy-to-use tablet dashboard that digitizes cabin crew activities before, during and post-flight, to increase operational efficiency, empower crews and personalize service excellence.

SITA’s strategic technology research team stimulate technological innovation in the air transport industry and bring emerging technologies into SITA’s portfolio. The team innovates in collaboration with airlines, airports, and technology specialists globally.

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Hamad International Airport chosen as the Best Airport in the Middle East

The Peninsula

Doha: Hamad International Airport (HIA) has been voted as the “Best Airport in the Middle East” for the fourth consecutive year by Global Traveler’s GT Tested Reader Survey Awards. One of the most prestigious and respected accolades in the business travel industry, the award honours the sustained, outstanding customer service offered by HIA in its passenger-oriented airport experience.

For the 17th consecutive year, Global Traveler asked its distinguished readers to vote for their favourite travel products and experiences. An estimated 72 per cent of Global Traveler’s readers frequently travel in first and business class.

HIA’s commitment to enhancing passenger wellbeing has allowed the airport to place passengers at the heart of its airport experience. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, HIA has implemented numerous safety, security and wellbeing measures, along with new lifestyle offerings that aid in alleviating the stress caused by travelling during such times of crises.

Francis X. Gallagher, publisher and CEO, FXExpress Publications. Inc said: “It is a testament to Hamad International Airport’s dedication to a holistic passenger experience that our readers have chosen HIA as the Best Airport in the Middle East for the fourth consecutive year. Congratulations to Hamad International Airport on upholding its role as the avant-garde force in delivering an outstanding airport experience in the region.”

Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer at Hamad International Airport said: ” We would like to thank the distinguished readers of Global Traveler Magazine for voting for us for the fourth year in a row. To be recognised for our efforts in ensuring the comfort and peace of mind of our passengers, especially during this unprecedented time, is an honour that bolsters us to continue improving our passengers’ airport experience. In our role as a gateway to the world, we at HIA are committed to the wellbeing of our passengers, which has allowed us to lead the charge in facing the COVID-19 pandemic with proactive safety measures and innovative technologies.”

As part of HIA’s swift and comprehensive steps towards passenger and employee safety against the pandemic, the airport has implemented the latest technologies like fully autonomous disinfectant robots, advanced thermal screening helmets, ultraviolet disinfection tunnels for all checked-in passenger luggage and an in-house developed face mask detection system to ensure the use of masks.  HIA’s Smart Airport Program utilises self-service and biometric technology to provide passengers with a safe and contact-free check-in and bag-drop experience.

HIA has also added a suite of services and facilities to improve its passenger experience. It introduced a sleep lounge earlier this year with sleep pods and cabins, where visitors can pay by the hour to relax between flights. It also introduced new food and beverage options at the terminal including the exclusive Harrods Tea Room and a vegan café with a healthy and innovative menu. The airport has also opened a variety of high-end luxury retail outlets offering products available exclusively to HIA’s passengers.

Engr. Al Meer  continued: “We remain committed to serve our US markets and strengthen the Qatar- U.S. cooperation, which is evident by our national carrier, Qatar Airways rebuilding its network to 11 destinations in the U.S. by March next year.”

Qatar Airways recently announced the launch of four weekly flights to Seattle from 15 March 2021, marking the seventh new destination launched by the carrier since the start of the pandemic. The airline has also partnered with Alaska Airlines to launch a frequent flyer program from 15 December 2020. Qatar Airways also plans to implement codeshare cooperation in line with the U.S. carrier, which is set to join oneworld in March 2021.

Qatar also announced earlier this year that 2021 will be celebrated as the Qatar – U.S. Year of Culture, which will fortify the evidently mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries and open doors for new opportunities. The year will recognize the two nations’ cultural and artistic diversity, encouraging intercultural dialogue, and deepening mutual understanding. The year-long program will feature a variety of exhibitions, festivals, competitions, bilateral exchanges and events that will be held in both countries,  inviting people to explore and appreciate one another’s culture.

Hamad International Airport continues its expansion project to increase its capacity to more than 60 million passengers annually. It also focuses on offering elevated retail and lifestyle experiences.

Based in the United States, Global Traveler is a renowned source of global premium travel expertise. The publication’s readers surveys are a prestigious source of information and cover other aspects of the travel industry, such as First- and Business Class Surveys and Best Airport in the World.

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Dubai Airports chief views 2021 with ‘cautious optimism’

Mandatory Covid-19 inoculations would be a ‘huge economic negative’ and unnecessary where PCR tests are in place, Paul Griffiths says

Tourists arrive at Dubai airport amid safety protocols in place to curb the spread of coronavirus. The chief of Dubai Airports expects momentum to pick up with the global roll out of vaccines and economies opening up. AFP
Tourists arrive at Dubai airport amid safety protocols in place to curb the spread of coronavirus. The chief of Dubai Airports expects momentum to pick up with the global roll out of vaccines and economies opening up. AFP

The chief executive of Dubai Airports said he views 2021 with “cautious optimism” as countries distribute Covid-19 vaccines and economies rebound.

“We are geared up and ready to expect a surge in demand once the vaccines start to [be distributed] in any meaningful scale,” Paul Griffiths told Bloomberg TV on Monday.

“Four billion people around the world have been in lockdown over the last eight to nine months; that is half of the population, and one of the most aspirational things that everyone wants to get back to is freedom of movement.”

Dubai International Airport was the world’s busiest international travel hub before the Covid-19 crisis.

Global pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca have achieved major breakthroughs in developing a coronavirus vaccine in recent weeks.

The first vaccine given in the US on Monday, where the pandemic had killed more than 306,460 people.

The UK began to give people the vaccine last week.

Mr Griffiths said the inoculation would not be required to fly into Dubai as it would be “a huge economic negative … I can’t see that being a requirement”.

“We have got so many sensible measures, including PCR testing on arrival, to make sure travel is safe enough for everyone to consider taking a journey. So, in my view, that would be … unnecessary.”

The aviation industry has opposed the vaccination requirement for passengers amid fears that it could hit air travel in a similar way to quarantine measures.

Mr Griffiths’s optimism for an industry recovery was also buoyed by the success of the UK-Dubai air travel bubble set up about a month ago.

“We are very confident that we are going to get back to about 30 per cent of our normal throughput during the month of December, which is probably going to be about double what we experienced through the previous months,” he said.

The emirate is set for an “incredibly busy” holiday season because of the agreement between the two governments, he said. About 65 per cent of the airlines that were flying at the start of the year have resumed flights to Dubai.

The airport is preparing for an austere 2021 but is prepared to sustain liquidity around a traffic base that is less than 30 per cent of pre-Covid levels, he said.

“We are now in a position where we can weather the storm going forward,” Mr Griffiths said.

“What is not certain is what the speed and shape of that recovery will be, but we stand ready to be able to take advantage [of it] when it comes.”

The coronavirus pandemic has dented the revenue of airports and airlines around the world as countries shut borders to prevent the virus spread.

The UAE has been gradually opening up to tourists over the past few months after putting in place the necessary safety measures.

Neighbouring Abu Dhabi plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions within two weeks and the emirate will resume “all economic, tourism, cultural and entertainment activities” within that period.

Earlier this week, the UAE announced plans to double the Dh41.2 billion ($11.2bn) spent each year on domestic tourism by 2030 and also encourage staycations.

Aviation and tourism are central to the UAE and are a pillar of the country’s economic diversification strategy.

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Hamad becomes first Middle Eastern airport to achieve 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating

Following a three-day audit, Skytrax awarded Hamad International Airport with the highest airport COVID-19 safety rating.

Credit: Hamad International Airport

Hamad International Airport (DOH) has become the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax. The audit evaluated how effectively COVID-19 policies are implemented at Qatar’s airport against the Skytrax COVID-19 safety rating standards.

The COVID-19 audit was conducted over three days in October 2020 and is based on a combination of procedural efficiency checks, visual observation analysis and ATP sampling tests, with the consistency of standards being a key determinant in the final rating applied.

The audit evaluated and verified the practicality and usefulness of physical distancing protocols, as well as the quality and availability of hand hygiene facilities across Hamad Airport’s terminal. The audit also assessed cleaning effectiveness and identified any potential contamination sources to ensure that the airport’s hygiene standards are complying with the most stringent requirements.

During the audit, Skytrax inspected and evaluated the standards of staff personal protective equipment (PPE) and their adherence to using them, as well as the implementation of thermal temperature screening procedures, face mask regulations and the overall cleanliness and hygiene standards across the airport.

Chief Operating Officer at Hamad International Airport, Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, said: “We are proud that our COVID-19 policies and protocols are recognised by Skytrax and that we are the first in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Rating. Since the inauguration of Hamad International Airport in 2014, Skytrax ranking has always played an important role in DOH’s self-assessment and served as a quality benchmark to keep up with passenger expectations and operational excellence. DOH prides itself on its status as a five-star airport for the fourth consecutive year, and a five-star COVID-19 airport by Skytrax.”

The Skytrax COVID-19 Airport Rating provides an independent analysis of an airport’s COVID-19 hygiene and safety measures, assessing over 400 factors in a typical airport travel sequence. Conducted over a few days, auditors test and evaluate the airport’s COVID-19 procedures personally.

Edward Plaisted from Skytrax said: “Hamad International Airport has achieved great success in delivering COVID-19 protocols that are providing a safe environment for customers and staff. In areas such as hand hygiene and social distancing, Hamad International Airport has good procedures in place. The airport is also meeting high standards of sanitisation across the high-contact points. The consistency of COVID-19 safety procedures and systems is excellent, and this is a critical factor behind being able to certify Hamad International Airport with the 5-star COVID-19 Safety Rating.”

As Qatar’s state-of-the-art hub continuously prioritises passenger convenience and safety, the airport recently installed 15 PPE vending machines across its terminal to ensure that passengers can easily access various disposable and washable PPE equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitisers and face shield products. Physical distancing floor stickers are installed in front of every PPE vending machine to safeguard passengers safety.

Hamad Airport also invested in Smart Screening Helmets – wearable intelligent helmets that are portable, safe and effective in enabling contactless temperature measurement. This is in addition to UV disinfectant robots, which are fully autonomous mobile devices, emitting concentrated UV-C light that eliminates the majority of infectious microorganisms. The robots are being deployed in vulnerable high passenger flow areas to reduce the spread of pathogens.

Additionally, the airport recently installed C2 technology – the latest security screening system – which is a significant counter COVID-19 measure that reduces possible cross-contamination in passenger carry-on bags. The implementation of the technology elevates Hamad Airport’s hygiene standards by limiting human contact at security checkpoints, making the process safer and faster for both staff and passengers.

DOH is also one of the few global airports to offer a contactless and paperless airport experience with the introduction of biometric identification technology, in addition to touchless elevator keys.

Hamad Airport maintains stringent cleaning procedures in line with international standards. The airport continues to implement a 1.5m physical distancing across all passenger touchpoints around the airport, through floor markings, signage and distanced seating.

All passenger touchpoints are sanitised regularly and all gates and bus gate counters are cleaned after each flight. The airport also conducts regular disinfection of all baggage trolleys and tubs. Hamad Airport’s retail and food and beverage outlets encourage contactless and cashless transactions through cards and are considering introducing online or in-app purchases in the future

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and get to [ON-DEMAND WEBINAR] Re-inventing airport non-aeronautical revenue generation post COVID-19

ACI World proposes new Airport Health Measures Audit Programme

ACI World’s new proposed audit programme, to be delivered in partnership with Bureau Veritas, will support the airport industry’s recovery from COVID-19.


Airports Council International (ACI) World has announced a partnership with Bureau Veritas – a world leader in testing, inspection and certification – to propose to airports, all around the world, an Audit Programme to ensure the proper implementation of appropriate health and safety measures.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought airports to a virtual standstill. To support the airport industry’s recovery, a commitment to the health and welfare of travellers, staff and the public is key.

The Airport Health Measures Audit Programme aims to support airport operators by addressing their specific risks and by reassuring passengers. The on-site audits – conducted by Bureau Veritas – and the associated SafeGuardTM label will enable airports to demonstrate their compliance with a harmonised set of measures, aligned with the recommendations of national and international authorities.

ACI World’s new proposed audit programme, to be delivered in partnership with Bureau Veritas, will support the airport industry’s recovery from COVID-19.

[ON-DEMAND WEBINAR] Discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on the NEXTT vision

This webinar looked at how NEXTT addresses the challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis, and how some of the technologies and process changes contribute to the mitigation of health risks. Watch on-demand as the panelists answered questions on subjects including touchless processing and design flexibility during a panel discussion.

Click here to watch on-demand today!

ACI World’s Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, said: “As an addition to our Airport Health Accreditation Programme, this partnership with Bureau Veritas will provide airports with the benefit of the rigor and precision of a robust physical audit of their processes. It illustrates to passengers, regulators and governments that they are prioritising health and safety. Bureau Veritas has the international experience and expertise to provide audits to verify that safety and hygiene protective and preventative measures related to COVID-19 are set up and implemented based upon international and national recommendations.”

“This partnership is another example of ACI’s intention to work with the industry to support recovery. Sustainable social and economic development can thus be delivered to the communities we serve. Partnerships will support the aviation industry and help to push it forward during the recovery process and beyond,” he added.

Antoine Blin, Director of the Aeronautics & Space Agency at Bureau Veritas, added: “We are proud to work with ACI to support the airport industry recovery through a solution fostering passengers’ trust. For several months now, the SafeGuardTM label has been successfully implemented in a large number of companies across various industries and geographies. Our global network of auditors has extensive experience in health and safety requirements and is able to mobilise worldwide. With our label, today, we have the ability to meet the new expectations of our society in terms of health and safety.”

The SafeGuardTM label addresses specific risks to all places where people live and work, providing a continuous reference to travellers along their journey. It means that teams have been effectively trained on hygiene best practices and assures that protective measures are properly set up and implemented in a transparent way.

For this partnership with ACI, Bureau Veritas has developed a dedicated checklist to cover all of the processes of an airport, from management to operations, which is deployed through an on-site audit. Health, safety and air transport experts all contributed to the creation of this airport-specific checklist.

Airports that successfully complete the process will be able to display the SafeGuardTM label to communicate this achievement to passengers, staff and the public on a dedicated website.

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR] Discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on the NEXTT vision

This webinar looked at how NEXTT addresses the challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis, and how some of the technologies and process changes contribute to the mitigation of health risks. Watch on-demand as the panelists answered questions on subjects including touchless processing and design flexibility during a panel discussion.

Click here to watch on-demand today!

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