Nokia expands aviation presence

It seems there’s a regular flow of news from Nokia in the aviation space recently.  Reinforcing its commitment to this market.

First was the announcement of an analytics-based thermal detection solution aimed at fighting COVID-19 in airports.  Although this solution is focused on many locations other than airports – factories, ports, offices, schools and outdoor screen centers – the potential for use in an airport situation to support mission-critical networks and digital automation is of interest to ATM.

The solution is agnostic to the types of sensors, cameras and systems used by the organisation.  You might say that airports are already doing such activities, so why is this different.  Thermal scanning via a camera vs Infrared scanning via a handheld camera provides benefits to both the airport and the passengers.  For the airport, many more people can be scanned in a shorter period of time and it allows the airport personnel to keep a further distance from possibly infected travelers.  For the passengers, the time waiting for this to occur is virtually eliminated as they are just continuing to walk past the camera.  According to Nokia, who implemented this solution in its Chennai factory location, an $80,000 cost savings was achieved by this change.

Privacy is maintained in such a solution as personally identifiable information or PII is masked.  On the flip side, deep learning modules can be used to scan the pictures to ensure that a face covering is being used in order to align with COVID-19 travel guidelines.  This is a secondary item that can help flag to airport authorities when such rules are not being followed allowing for someone to be dispatched to the appropriate location.

Following on this announcement came the selection of Nokia to participate in the Project FACT (Future All Aviation CNS Technology) research and development initiative as a part of SESAR 2020.  The FACT Project will deliver updates to the existing CNS technologies where it is anticipated that applications such as controller-pilot datalink communications can be deployed over high-bandwidth broadband technologies.  The research will also look at the integration with today’s ATM systems and the support of emerging U-Space services for drones and unmanned aviation.

SESAR is funding the Project and will incorporate the findings into the SESAR Masterplan.  Honeywell is the overall leader of the effort.  The goal is to do tests throughout the next year with a draft of the findings available by early 2021, for introduction the first quarter of 2022.

The current VHF communications technology cannot support the amount of data download and latency requirements for newer aircraft, such as an A380.  This will likely necessitate the introduction of 5G.  This will also support a faster turnaround time for flights on the ground as they will be able to notify en route possible maintenance requirements earlier so that ground crew can be prepared, for example.  The focus of the Project is to consider if this works with existing technology and reduces costs.

Nokia seems to be doing a good job at transitioning its technology and lessons learned within the Telecoms and IT sector into the Aviation sector.  For the past five years, this is a topic I’ve been waiting for in the industry.  It only stands to reason that these technologies that have already been adopted in many other forms of transportation and public safety would ultimately make their way into this sector.  Finally, the time seems right.

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