Digitising the world’s largest airport

By Nabil Khalil, Executive Vice President R&M Middle East, Turkey and Africa www.rdm.com

The benchmark for new airport developments has been set with this innovative approach

Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA), the largest airport in the world, is the world’s first airport to be fully digitised. The new airport replaces Atatürk Airport, which will soon be closed for passenger flights.
The recently opened first section of the airport processes 90 million passengers every year. Three additional construction phases will be completed over the next 15 years; on completion of all four phases, the state of the art airport will measure 76.5 million square metres. The new airport will host flights to more than 350 destinations with an annual passenger capacity of up to 200 million and will have six active runways, 250 aircraft and parking for 18,000 cars.
Across the aerospace industry, digitisation is a key topic, although keeping up with fast technology developments is a major challenge. With the increased utilisation and dependence on IT systems in air travel, a high-performance cabling network is now the critical platform for the airport’s entire internal and external telecommunications plus other operational applications and services.

A network of security
In 2015, the airport’s project team put together a roadmap, in order to integrate a wide variety of information technologies into airport operations one at a time; airport IT systems were completed in 2017. Eight people work at the airport’s two in-house cybersecurity centres 24/7, and 10 more are in training. Other innovations in use at the airport are advanced face recognition and biometric security, robot assistants and cameras that can analyse human behaviour and alert staff if luggage is left unattended.
The site’s perimeter is highly protected with ground radar, CCTV cameras at 60-metre intervals, pan, tilt and zoom cameras every 360 metres, thermal cameras and fibre optic sensors every 720 metres. The active terminal building uses up to 9,000 surveillance cameras and 3,000 card readers in real-time, with confidence that they will be protected against any transmission interference or loss. 5,000 trouble-free and fail-safe Wi-Fi access points provide the airport with full-coverage WLAN.
Cabling connects ICT infrastructures for customs, the security staff and police force and links announcement system, fire alarms, cameras, card access systems, flight management, ATC systems and more. Artificial Intelligence is used to regulate temperature and determine when runways require maintenance, and RFID baggage tracking informs travellers when their baggage has been dropped on a specific carousel so that they don’t need to wait in the baggage claim area – the same technology is also used as the foundation for the airport’s lost and found luggage system. A digital airport map with indoor navigation helps both passengers and employees find their way around the airport.

The backbone of the network
The airport aims to provide travellers, logistics companies and airlines with a guarantee of 99.982% reliability (TIER III class). IGA is the first airport to receive a Tier 3 data centre technology certificate. The mission-critical airport data centre measures 4,000m2 and houses 6,000 servers. There are 90,000 RJ45 ports at the airport, and cabling is guaranteed to last at least 25 years and remain unconditionally reliable.
In the first phase of construction, 5,400km of copper cabling and 3,270km of fibre optic cabling were installed, as well as fibre optic distribution cabinets, patch and 115,000 connector ports. To accommodate the vast number of connections required and to support changes in the future, a fibre optic management platform was chosen because it features the world’s highest connection density of up to 120 ports per rack unit. Management of the entire cabling infrastructure is centralised and automated.
All of the network areas had to be designed in accordance with individual plans. When it comes to airports, the ability to be able to accurately coordinate complex installations over a long project duration while consistently delivering the same level of quality are essential. This requires highly organised professional project management teams on-site, allowing allow IGA’s IT team to rapidly and conveniently scale the network as needed. Thanks to their modular design, the cabling systems are able to keep pace with the expansion of the airport and can be scaled up and branched out with just a few simple steps.

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