The sky is the limit for flying tech

By Alex Sweeney, Account Director

There was only one place to ‘take-off’ from on the Whiteoaks Blog this week. With the world famous Farnborough Airshow taking place just eight miles from the office door, it’s about time we buckled up and looked at the increased role that new technology could be about to play in our overseas adventures.

Throughout this week the Hampshire skies will be treated to a variety of engineering and technological wizardry as aviation companies descend on Farnborough armed with their latest products.

The first piece of potentially travel-changing news is that our frantic fascination with the electronic check-in or boarding gate displays at airports could be about to become a thing of the past.

Developers are working on an adaptable app that changes in relation to the user’s location, avoiding the need for a separate app for each airport. The app would provide all the essential information you need for a seamless journey through the hustle and bustle of airport departure lounges and baggage collection points. Unlike most current airport apps based around static layout maps, the app would use Bluetooth beacons to filter information before sending it to users at the right time.

Ilya Gutlin, Asia Pacific president of aerospace information technology company SITA said: “You don’t want 20 different airport apps on your phone, you want it to morph into a different app when you go to a different airport. If your baggage is lost, your app will be able to tell — and you don’t have to wait to find out at the baggage carousel.”

Miami International airport recently became the first to install the beacons feeding data including walk-to-gate times, details of nearby food outlets and updates on baggage collection.

However, it’s not just our terminal experience that could be set to improve. Just this week airline company XL rolled out its new in-flight wireless entertainment system that allows passengers to connect to the onboard Wi-Fi and access a variety of content from videos to magazines. Asking the question, how long will it be before we get SkyGo, a PlayStation or an Xbox to amuse us while we’re at 30,000ft?

Although that could be slightly ambitious, the prospect of fewer flight delays could well become a reality according to defence company Saab. The Swedish firm showcased its latest technology at Farnborough this week, a system that could allow air traffic controllers to direct the flow of airplanes at an airport from miles away.

In essence the smart technology works through a series of high resolution cameras that relay images to a bank of screens in a control room, dispatching the need for a traditional looming control tower.

The technology was first implemented at Ornskoldsvik Airport, with the remote control tower 93 miles away in Sundsvall. It has been up and running since April 2015 and its designers believe it will allow traffic controllers to decide more efficiently which planes should land first, meaning fewer delays.

While technology will struggle to stop French air traffic controllers going on strike or a flurry of snow bringing Britain to a halt, in the future it may just make that flying experience a little bit more durable.