The formal commercial release of a new advanced visual docking guidance system from ADB SAFEGATE was timed to coincide with the recent Passenger Terminal Expo (PTE) held in London at the end of March. The all-new Safedock X builds on the company’s extensive experience in VDGS technology
Peter Håkansson, global product manager, gate solutions for ADB SAFEGATE recalls that Safedock X was unveiled and shown publicly for the first time at the inter airport Singapore event at the end of February. But its official commercial release, where the company’s sales team began selling the product, was contemporaneous with the PTE event at London’s ExCel centre.
The backstory to Safedock X is a long one, with ADB SAFEGATE having designed its latest VDGS on the back of many years of supplying high-tech aircraft docking aids. Says Håkansson, “ADB SAFEGATE is the pioneer in advanced visual docking guidance systems (A-VDGS).
“Our T generation of Safedock A-VDGS has become the standard in advanced visual docking guidance and is used on more than 10,000 gates at over 300 of the world’s busiest airports.”
Indeed, 18 million times a year – every two seconds – an aircraft is safely docked
with Safedock A-VDGS. More than two billion passengers, or about half of all air travellers each year, get to the gate safely because of Safedock A-VDGS, ADB SAFEGATE declares.
Håkansson explains some of the characteristics and benefits of ADB SAFEGATE’s A-VDGS. “The Safedock T generation systems use a patented 3D laser scanning technique that allows the system to scan a gate area both vertically and horizontally to capture and track aircraft. The unique ability to scan horizontally, allows Safedock to ‘see’ to the right and left of the centreline.”
As such, the system can then:
- Recognise the aircraft’s position relative to the centreline and can provide active guidance and intuitive instructions viewable by both pilots, showing the actual position of the aircraft relative to the centreline and indicating the direction to steer
- ‘Measure’ parts of the aircraft on either side of the centreline to discriminate between aircraft types and subtypes and ensure aircraft/gate compatibility to allow safe automated docking
Over the years, the Safedock A-VDGS has evolved to be much more that just a parking aid for pilots, Håkansson emphasises. It acts as a ‘central data collector’ at the gate as well as a device for sharing information and improving the situational awareness of the aircraft turn.
The Safedock X was built on these strong foundations. “To be able to take the next step in continued improvements in efficiency and safety during the turn, the Safedock X was developed on a brand-new platform,” Håkansson informs. “This new platform was needed to further increase the level of automation and digitisation at the gate, and hence support ADB SAFEGATE’s goal towards becoming a provider of ‘Total Airport Management’ [solutions].”
The Safedock X system uses enhanced 3D laser scan technology and the introduction of the Safedock X, says Håkansson, differentiates ADB SAFEGATE even further from technologies available from other docking system providers.
In fact, he considers, “The Safedock X is a new-generation A-VDGS solution; the first in the ‘X’ series and one that combines cutting-edge display capabilities to improve situational awareness, with state-of-the-art sensors to ensure safe, rapid aircraft docking under all weather conditions.
“These advances bring the future of fully automated, tightly integrated and intelligent docking and apron management closer to reality,” Håkansson asserts, adding, “The addition of the Safedock X is in line with ADB SAFEGATE’s shift toward becoming a provider of Total Airport Management enabled by advanced analytics.
“By applying integration, automation and advanced data analytics we will deliver faster, more predictable aircraft turnarounds for the smoothest flow of travelers,” he adds.
The design and development process of Safedock X benefited from the experience ADB SAFEGATE had gained from its 10,000 A-VDGS installed worldwide. The system was in development for around two years, the biggest challenge having been to perfect sensor fusion: i.e. the combination of the new sensor and the 3D laser sensor. “By succeeding in the fusion of two sensors, we have a product that is superior to any on the market,” Håkansson insists.
So, what are the big improvements over the pre-existing ‘T’ generation Safedock A-VDGS? Better performance in low visibility conditions would be the first, says Håkansson. “There are fewer situations that the Safedock X system cannot handle due to weather – which enhances safety, increases the availability of the system and reduces delays,” he notes.
Safedock X also benefits from several features that enhance safety, including an improved apron scan for foreign object debris (FOD) detection in the gate area.
Moreover, an approach monitoring feature contributes to operational safety by ensuring aircraft enter the gate in proper alignment to maintain wing clearance. If an aircraft tries to enter the gate on the wrong centreline, or at an angle outside of defined parameters, the system will automatically stop the pilot.
This feature is critical when parking new, wider aircraft types in gate layouts designed for smaller aircraft, Håkansson believes. It also increases airport capacity and opportunity by allowing tighter gate layouts and more aircraft types at each gate.
Safedock X also features “improved situational awareness”, he says, boasting a high-resolution full-colour graphic display, increased Ramp Information Display System (RIDS) capabilities and turn management support (with multiple display) to improve aircraft target off-block time (TOBT) adherence and reduce delays.
Turn milestones are displayed on a tablet/PC or on a second Safedock display, in support of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). A mobile operator panel further increases situational awareness and flexibility of ramp operations.
Finally, the system also offers a new, future-proof platform for deeper integration with other systems. When linked with an Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS), Safedock X acts as a sensor at the gate and sends positional data for the aircraft during docking and pushback. This militates against any black spots close to terminal buildings.
Håkansson expects Safedock X to appeal particularly to customers whose operations suffer from severe weather and extremely poor visibility and those who are early adopters of the latest technologies and heavily invested in integration, A-CDM and future proofing their operation.
The Safedock X will also work well for airports and airlines wanting to shave more time off aircraft turnaround times, those needing a more flexible display or multiple displays and those interested in enhancing FOD detection in the gate area, he says.
ADB Safegate is to market the new-generation technology alongside its Safedock T1 and T2 models.
The approach monitoring feature and mobile operator panel will also be available with the Safedock T1 – and the Safedock T1 also has integration capabilities with A-SMGCS.
In fact, there are many other safety benefits common to both generations of Safedock A-VDGS. The automated solution provides a heads-up approach to parking aircraft that minimises the possibility for human error, Håkansson observes. “Use of ADB SAFEGATE’s A-VDGS and integration capabilities, via our SafeControl Apron management solution, will prevent the majority of costly apron incidents”, while
- Reducing ramp congestion and danger to personnel
- Verifying aircraft type/subtype and ensuring aircraft/gate compatibility (adjacency rules)
- Preventing parking of incompatible aircraft at adjacent gates
- Verifying the position of the passenger boarding bridge
- Bringing aircraft into the gate to avoid traffic lane obstruction
Christian Onselaere, CEO of ADB SAFEGATE, adds: “With its advanced integration systems, Safedock X is a major part of our strategy to interconnect airside systems with landside operations.
“This will enable synchronisation and management of landside resources such as baggage handling, catering, gate management and security as part of a long-term vision to help airports adopt Total Airport Management.”
He concludes: “Safedock X represents a new era in docking systems and apron management, with many features that help make docking and aircraft turnaround safer, faster and more efficient.
“Safedock X brings the future of fully automated, tightly integrated and intelligent docking and apron management closer to reality.”