10 Developments In Aviation And Airport Technology Expected to Improve Efficiency In 2023

rome fiumicino airport boxcube asia elly ken elizabeth ken

This week’s CES 2023 gave us a glimpse into the trends and new and emerging technologies that will affect the airline sector over the next year and beyond; the new year gives us another chance to do the same. This year’s list focuses on 10 developments that will have a significant impact on customers and the bottom line. The topics we cover range all the way from robotics and automation to the metaverse and UAM.

One possible dominant trend this year and beyond is the increased use of automation to streamline processes and compensate for rising labour expenses. According to Forbes, “labour has historically comprised roughly 25% of an airline’s cost. Several experts believe this number will rise to more than 40% within the following few years. This highlights the critical importance of the sector as a whole investing in technology and automation.

Ingenious solutions are already being used to this end, such as the incorporation of autonomous technology to ensure the continued viability of airside operations. Royal Schiphol Group’s Chief of Innovation Carolijn Schoofs discussed the company’s goals for a fully autonomous airside operation by 2050 at the FTE APEX Asia Expo in November 2022. The FTE APEX Asia Expo, set to take place in Singapore on November 8-9, 2023, will once again feature a heavy emphasis on automation.

Robots play a significant role in Avinor’s autonomous baggage transfer initiative, which is financed by the European Union. In 2023, automation will be a major emphasis for the Baggage Innovation Working Group, of which Avinor is a partner through the Airport Lab Network.

Meanwhile, in December, we reported that Heathrow, in conjunction with the international consultancy and construction firm Mace, had begun using a robotic dog created by Boston Dynamics to enhance productivity and security on large-scale building projects. The airport’s cargo tunnel is undergoing renovations that include new mechanical and electrical systems. The construction site’s data can be retrieved safely by the project team thanks to the robot dog, and then 3D models and augmented reality can be used to monitor the project’s correctness and progress. Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe once remarked, “Heathrow’s mission is to give passengers the best airport experience in the world, and in order to do that, we need outstanding people, and we also need innovation.” “Dave the Dog” is a wonderful invention since it allows us to use robots and automation to complete the things that must be done.

It’s becoming increasingly common for airports to use autonomous robots to deliver retail and food & beverage orders. Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania, USA, has the xBridge Innovation Center to thank for the implementation of this technology. Ottonomy, one of ten businesses chosen to participate in Aeroporti di Roma (ADRaccelerator )’s programme ‘Runway to the Future,’ has had its new fully autonomous delivery robot adopted by ADR in Europe. We believe in continuously improving the passenger experience, which is why we made automation a focus of our first request for proposals, explained Emanuele Cala, VP Innovation & Quality at ADR.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

While AI and ML are technically part of robotics, we feel they deserve separate mention for their own merits.

ChatGPT, a chatbot built using AI and ML that was released by OpenAI in November and is getting a lot of attention, has impressed us much. Even though it’s still in its infancy, we’re thrilled about the potential uses in the aviation industry.

To better serve its customers by precisely predicting passenger and cargo demand, Korean Air is working towards the introduction of a machine learning management service.

With the goal of improving operational efficiencies and increasing output, Narita International Airport is making strides to adopt robotics and AI. The company is also making strides in the field of artificial intelligence in an effort to enhance customer happiness by teaching AI to recognise and respond to genuine comments and complaints.

NFT, Digital Twin, and the Metaverse

The metaverse, or virtual reality environment where users may interact with digital objects and digital representations of themselves and others, was a popular topic at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show 2023 (CES 2023) last week.

According to the latest ‘Meet the Megatrends’ study by SITA, “By 2030 metaverse operations will be routine at major airports and play a significant role in optimising procedures, preventing interruption, and facilitating intuitive, immersive control of intelligent airports.”

While the metaverse has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential, forward-thinking airlines and airports are already investigating potential applications.

Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (BLR Airport) operator Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) has launched a T2 digital twin into the metaverse. Apple has recently announced the first phase launch of the “BLR Metaport,” developed in tandem with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Polygon, and promising a fully immersive, 3D virtual experience of the brand-new Terminal 2. BIAL’s Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Satyaki Raghunath, is enthusiastic about the company’s foray into the metaverse via the BLR Metaport. This is our maiden voyage into the realm of Web3 and NFTs, and we hope to wow tourists with a one-of-a-kind, fully digital adventure. During the coming few years, we also plan to implement a number of initiatives centred on the BLR Metaport that will expand our opportunities to interact with our worldwide audience and boost our business’s impact.

With the introduction of QVerse, a revolutionary virtual reality (VR) experience, Qatar Airlines has made its way into the metaverse. In the Premium check-in facility at Hamad International Airport, and in the cabin interior of the airline’s aircraft, users of the www.qatarairways.com/QVerse website can virtually tour and navigate the surroundings using their own Personal Electronic Devices. The airline is also the first in the world to debut a digitally interactive cabin staff called MetaHuman.

Meanwhile, Incheon International Airport Corporation debuted the world’s first metaverse airport at CES 2023. Using the Roblox global metaverse platform, a fictitious airport has been constructed to educate and prepare passengers for Incheon Airport’s smart check-in procedures such as self check-in, self bag drop, off-airport check-in, and the OneID Smart Pass.


End-to-end customization is becoming a standard expectation for travellers. At CES 2023, Delta Air Lines showed off its response by displaying Delta Sync, its vision for more individualised travel that unites a suite of digital offerings.

Delta Sync, set to debut in 2023, will leverage free Wi-Fi and the loyalty of SkyMiles members to provide custom in-flight entertainment, expanded dining options, and special promotions from leading consumer brands. Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, said, “Delta Sync elevates what it means to be a Delta SkyMiles Member by enabling a journey that fits you precisely and grows more rewarding the more you fly.” A future in which “your digital and physical experiences come together in a seamless, warm, and personable way” will enhance the value of in-person interactions when travelling.

Innovative retail strategies

Innovations in payment, booking, and all-you-can-fly subscription services are making significant strides towards reshaping the airline retail industry.

The partnership between Amadeus and Finnair to create a personalised and up-to-the-moment retail experience for airline customers is a recent example. Antti Kleemola, Finnair’s Chief Information Officer, said, “Enhanced retailing capabilities including dynamic pricing, upselling, cross-selling, bundling and unbundling complement our objective of raising revenues and improving profitability.”

Similarly innovative is the Online Booking Engine of Icelandic low-cost carrier PLAY (IBE). As part of this initiative, it is preparing to roll out new capabilities like ticket packages, layover flights, and in-country payment methods.

In order to improve the upsell of its branded and auxiliary products and provide a more engaging shopping experience for its customers, Aeromexico is implementing NDC technology. “We are on the verge of creating a new marketplace for customised travel,” stated Aaron Murray, Chief Commercial Officer of Aeromexico.

As this is happening, more and more airports are introducing contactless shopping options. In September, DFW International debuted three state-of-the-art concessions with grab-and-go technology; two of them used Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology, while the third was powered by Zippin. Meanwhile, Sammy Patel, Vice President Commercial at Vantage Airport Group and CEO of Midway Partnership, spoke with FTE about the company’s “flexing its innovative muscle” through contactless commercial solutions.

Easy Transportation in Congested Cities

Many airlines and airports across the globe have contributed to the rising popularity of urban air mobility during the past year. Groupe ADP and Skyports unveiled a passenger terminal testbed for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) in Paris, with plans for commercialization in 2024; Aeroporti di Roma deployed the first fully functional vertiport in Italy, a major step towards activation of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) routes between Fiumicino Airport and Rome city centre in 2024; and So Paulo International Airport selected VPorts and Air Traffic Management Inc. to build a vert

Major airlines are also making substantial investments. Delta Air Lines and Joby Aviation have entered into a multi-year, multi-market commercial and operational agreement to be the first airline to offer home-to-airport eVTOL transfer services. With the option to increase the investment to $200 million, it has made an initial equity investment of $60 million in Joby. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has collaborated with Vertical Aerospace, Virgin Atlantic, Atkins, Skyports, and NATS to hasten the adoption of AAM in the United Kingdom by 2030.

In light of this expanding trend, the second FTE Air MobilityX Summit was held as part of FTE Global 2022, providing in-depth predictions for the future of mobility and highlighting the substantial room for expansion in the industry. Moreover, “by 2032, electric air taxis will be ubiquitous at major international airports and function as an effective supplementary service and income stream for airports and airlines,” as stated in SITA’s latest ‘Meet the Megatrends’ report.

Digital ids and biometrics

Every year, we include a section on biometrics in our trends report, and this year was no exception. Biometric usage and acceptance amongst travellers has been bolstered by the post-pandemic trend towards contactless technologies. According to the 2022 World Passenger Survey conducted by IATA, “Passengers see value in biometric identification. Seventy-five percent of flyers favour using biometric data in place of passports and boarding permits.

The worldwide adoption of biometric technologies is gaining momentum. The Star Alliance Biometrics access system is being tested by Turkish Airlines and Istanbul Airport, and biometric boarding technology is being installed at Philadelphia International Airport. Additionally, British Airways is experimenting with biometric check-in and boarding for international flights.

American Airlines and the TSA began working together to try out mobile identification last year through a new cooperation. Passengers who have TSA PreCheck can now breeze past security checks using only a photo of their passport and their facial features on their mobile device.

New digital technology for identification verification has been implemented by the TSA in conjunction with the State of Arizona and Apple at security checkpoints at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A mobile driver’s licence or mobile identification card issued by the state of Arizona in Apple Wallet on an iPhone or Apple Watch can now be used to authenticate the identity of travellers in the state.

During FTE Global 2022, experts from companies including American Airlines, Airside, Paravision, and Entrust shared their knowledge on the topic of digital identity, and this is expected to continue to be a hot topic in the coming year.

Intimate Connections

One of the most exciting new developments in the aviation industry is the advent of private wireless networks, which can facilitate the “internet of everything,” allowing for the smooth operation of everything from autonomous cars on the ramp to optimised gate operations.

At FTE Global 22, the technology was discussed at length in the Private Networks Symposium, which featured representatives from airports such as MIA, DFW, DFW, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Barich, Inc., and ExteNet Systems.

Last year, Fraport and NTT formed a new strategic relationship to construct the largest private 5G campus network in Europe at Frankfurt Airport. Fraport will be able to speed up cutting-edge initiatives, such autonomous driving on the apron, because of the network’s high capacity and low latency. The real-time data transfer made possible by the 5G network is also useful for potential future uses, such as the use of robots or drones to monitor airport infrastructure via video. Fraport’s Chief Information Officer, Dr. Wolfgang Standhaft, called running a solo mobile network a “milestone” for the company’s airport operations. To paraphrase, “we are creating the strategic foundations that will let us make airport operations even more efficient in the future owing to innovation and digitalization.”

It’s time to start working with new companies again

Due to the urgency of dealing with the pandemic, working with new businesses took a second seat. Now that things have settled down, the industry is back on the agenda, and forward-thinking airports and airlines are teaming up with high-potential startups and scaleups in greater numbers than ever before.

The Italian airport operator Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) has issued a second “Call for Ideas” to new businesses. Following the first ‘Call for Ideas,’ which resulted in the implementation of 10 projects chosen from over 100 applications, this new round of ADR’s acceleration programme will offer eight successful applicants the opportunity to work on their projects directly from the ADR Innovation Hub, which was inaugurated in October 2022 and is located in the heart of Terminal 1 at Rome Fiumicino Airport. Successful applicants will be paired with mentors from the ADR’s “Innovation Cabin Crew,” and through the program’s “Runway to the Future,” startups will have the chance to connect with national and international partners and collaborate with a network of airports focused on innovation in a space designed specifically for them.

Another example of the industry’s renewed appetite to collaborate closely with the startup scene is the Canadian airline WestJet, which is the latest to highlight its commitment to engaging with startups. WestJet’s focus areas of engagement with startups include artificial intelligence and machine learning.

This tendency is exemplified by the rapidly expanding FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub and is only expected to quicken in the years 2023 and beyond.


As the global aviation sector has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, sustainability has become an overarching goal for the vast majority of current innovation projects.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels, advanced aircraft technology, improved efficiency in operations and infrastructure, and the discovery of new zero-emissions energy sources like electric and hydrogen power will all play a role in getting us to net zero.

In a recent announcement, Air New Zealand named Eviation, Beta, VoltAero, and Cranfield Aerospace as the four pioneers it will collaborate with on its mission to launch its first zero emissions demonstrator flight by 2026. Air New Zealand and its partners will spend the next few years working on the technology and infrastructure needed to make flying electric, green hydrogen, and hybrid aircraft a reality in New Zealand. According to Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran, “Mission NextGen Aircraft” is not about supporting a single pioneer. The goal is to advance the entire ecosystem by collaborating with a wide variety of pioneers in emission-free aircraft design. In 2026, we’ll begin flying an aircraft equipped with next-generation propulsion technology; with that experience under our belts, our long-term partners will be able to bring us an aircraft to replace our ageing Q300 turboprop domestic fleet.

In a similarly intriguing initiative, the Hamburg Airport has created the Hydrogen Aviation Lab in a retired Airbus A320. Hamburg’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Innovation and the city’s investment and development bank are providing funding for this collaborative effort between Lufthansa Technik, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the ZAL Center for Applied Aeronautical Research, and Hamburg Airport (IFB Hamburg). Hydrogen Aviation Lab will be outfitted with a fuel cell, liquid hydrogen storage, and ground-based hydrogen infrastructure over the course of the next few months. According to Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, “climate-friendly flying with hydrogen technology is a key building block for the future of aviation.” All aviation partners are involved in the development processes thanks to research projects like this hydrogen laboratory.

In fact, it will be only via such coordinated, cross-sector initiatives that we reach net zero.