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Technology and Ground Handling

Updated: Sep 20


Team Aisle Rover takes a stock of how the technology horizon is set to modernize Ground Operations across the globe.



When we think of airports and air travel, we visualize our past trips and the entire scene of branding, meticulously arranged counters, smartly dressed personnel and the excitement of being aboard the aircraft flashes our mind. There is a lot of planning and efforts that go around executing the entire flight handling activity and what we as passengers see and observe is just the tip of a mammoth operation that is being executed in the background.


We all know technology is the future and AI and Robotics is here to stay. To effectively accommodate the expanding demand for air travel and cargo, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the ground handling industry to focus on Accelerating the speed of innovation and process modernization.

Ramp handling is an integral part of aircraft Ground operations. It covers the loading and unloading of baggage, air cargo and mail onto the aircraft and transportation between the aircraft and the passenger terminal and cargo terminals. Managers have to orchestrate a great deal of activity within a small area, around a magnificently expensive piece of equipment, in a very short time frame. In addition to this, ramp handling services cover preparation of aircraft cabins by cleaning and dressing the interiors before the next set of passenger board. As we can see, ramp handling is a very complex environment, involving various parties and tasks, where execution through precision, while keeping safety as the top priority is very important.

Due to the nature and complexity of operations, many incidents and accidents occur on the ramp daily across the world. The annual estimated cost of damage arising out of these is huge which is borne by the airlines or Ground Handling companies. Researchers and experts through their investigations have identified a few contributing factors for such events:

1. Staff shortages leading to overwork and fatigue.

2. Training deficiencies because of the high turnover.

3. Flaunting of safety rules have a cumulative effect that eventually leads to a serious mishap.

4. Supervisors are under pressure from senior management and so ignore an unsafe act to achieve on-time performance.

5. Financial pressures lead airlines to cut costs and their service providers, in turn, hire personnel through low wages.

In the years following IATA’s directive, several initiatives and checks and balances have been set up to reduce ground handling incidents. This includes IATA Safety Audit programme for Ground Operations or ISAGO and the safety management system (SMS) or health and safety programmes which airlines and ground handlers are mandated to implement.

We all know technology is the future and AI and Robotics is here to stay. To effectively accommodate the expanding demand for air travel and cargo, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the ground handling industry to focus on Accelerating the speed of innovation and process modernization.

Robotics and automation

Telepresence robots can play a huge role in setting up a Virtual Helpdesk while maintaining a frictionless experience for passengers. It digitizes Passenger Services with options to connect and speak with an agent who is in a Video Contact Centre. Technology can help passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) or the visually impaired find their way with ease around airports. It allows passengers to specify and personalise what help and assistance they need while travelling through an airport setting. Use of robotics is future-proofing the process with a scalability potential, as the demand for these services increases.

Artificial intelligence

Airports and airlines have utilised the use of artificial intelligence to a great extent. The emergence of chatbots on nearly every website reveals the impact and scale that this technology can reach. With the potential to be used at every level of the operational infrastructure in the airport, and with an increasing presence for the use of data analytics, AI will soon have a hold of the airline industry that it is unlikely to relinquish.

Immersive experiences

With the introduction of Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and Beacons, experiences within the airports are changing. AR could be the future of wayfinding overlaying a smartphone or tablet to give more information, while VR provides a fully immersive experience. The use of VR in training by increasing the immersion of conventional training can enhance traditional theory with effective practical training in a realistic environment. This is especially useful in airside operational training which can be dangerous and is logistically challenging.


We’re not going to see an exclusively robotic factory, but we will see the optimum use of robots and people.”-Dennis Muilenburg

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