Automated airports calls for review of critical infrastructure

Power Control
15 Jan 2021

Covid-19 has presented enormous challenges for almost all businesses. One industry in particular that has found itself in a precarious catch 22 is the aviation market. Significantly impacted by the pandemic, it is one market that is unlikely to ever resume its ‘business as normal’ from 12 months ago.

A key challenge for the sector is to reinstate confidence in air travel and to reassure passengers that all measures have been taken to achieve optimum health and safety. Already heavily automated facilities, airports are placing even greater pressure on their electrical infrastructures with the introduction of significant amounts of new technology. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis there was a key focus on making improvements to airport security screening. This still remains a high priority but is now coupled with the need to introduce more ‘touchless’ processes. These include systems to manage contactless procedures such as check-in, bag drop and boarding, automated queue management, AI (artificial intelligence) and biometric recognition.

With so much new technology being introduced at such a rapid pace, airport facilities need to be mindful of the strain on their power supplies, emergency power provisions and the knock on affects that any loss in power might have to operations.

Backup power for airports is commonplace, with many UPS (uninterruptible power supply) solutions and emergency power generators already used to support elements such as signalling systems, ticketing, air traffic control, emergency lighting and onsite data centres. However, as more technology is integrated, the impact this could have on existing load requirements needs to be considered. Overloading current UPS systems could cause them to fail. Although most modern UPS systems are designed to cope with some overload, it is not recommended as it can damage the performance of the unit.

Another aspect to be conscious of when extra equipment is being added to existing UPS systems, is runtime. Even if loads are not exceeded, autonomy can be affected as power will be distributed to more devices. To ensure that required runtimes can still be achieved it is important to consider all the other factors that will affect UPS autonomy including UPS applications, whether time needs to be factored in for server shutdown and time to re-apply power to the UPS system. Best practice advises that although UPS solutions should not run at full load capacity, autonomy should be calculated at full load to ensure that UPS batteries can operate at their highest capacity if they needed to.

Airports fall under the critical facility category and their reliance on backup power solutions has never been greater. Demands to integrate new technologies, increased power anomalies and adverse weather conditions are all contributing to emergency power dependence. Power Control Ltd provides UPS solutions for airports across the country and supports them to deliver resilient power protection strategies.

Working within 24/7 environments means that downtime is not an option and any power interruption could have very disruptive and costly consequences. It is therefore important for procedures to be put in place to ensure that any work carried out is done with minimal interference to daily operations. This often requires temporary hire UPS systems to help support the power infrastructure whilst upgrades and maintenance works are undertaken. Due to the urgency to integrate more automated systems at airports many are also looking at rental UPS solutions as interim measures.

The priority for airports is to create safe environments for passengers and to give them enough confidence in the systems and practices established to reduce the spread of viruses. Backup power forms an essential part of that plan. To find out more about how Power Control can support airport systems, security equipment and data centres please get in touch | 01246 431 431