Enabling data-led decisions on airfield investment

posted on 10th March 2021
Enabling data-led decisions on airfield investment

US-based company Jacobs – which seeks to provide ‘critical solutions for a more connected, sustainable world’ – has introduced a proprietary cloud-based platform that is designed to enable airport operators make the most of their airfield assets

Pavy is a cloud-based platform that was launched late last year following a trial period with a number of airports around the world. A customisable platform that has been developed to ‘put the airport in control’, enabling strategic, data-led decisions about airfield investment, it is, says Jacobs, expected to ‘reinvent the way airports manage airfield pavements’.

Pavy enables airports to use their own data to determine the business cases for financial spend. By showing where investment will be needed over five-year periods, it offers a ‘strategic decision enabler by connecting engineering and finance teams to help balance costs, risk and performance’, Jacobs says.

The Pavy concept dates back to a time when London Heathrow Airport asked Jacobs to create a solution to manage its 4 million square metres of airfield pavement. Jacobs people & places solutions senior vice president Europe and digital strategies Donald Morrison recalls: “We work every day to tackle our clients’ toughest challenges, and airfield asset management is a recurring issue in the aviation industry; even more so now, as operators look for more agile ways to manage their operations effectively in response to Covid-19.

“With Pavy, our new cloud-based platform, airports around the globe can better plan pavement investments and prioritise critical interventions.”

Heathrow Airport senior engineer Louise Batts informs: “The Pavy solution developed by Jacobs was born from the asset management principles conceived by Heathrow Airport Limited.

“Jacobs has embraced these principles to create a clear visual platform, utilising some of the functionality from Heathrow’s Decision Support Tool and making it applicable to all airports, whatever their size.

“Pavy, along with Jacobs’ consultation support, aims to provide optimised CapEx [capital expenditure] spend profiles, client decision support and contribute in future airfield pavement planning. Immediate feedback and basic scenario forecasting, combined with visual plans, gives Pavy an opportunity to change the field of airfield pavement asset management.”

Gary Fitch, Jacobs’ senior associate director, asset management advisory, tells Airside that Pavy takes a single set of pavement condition index (PCI) data used to describe the current condition of an airfield, and projects individual values for each section of the airfield forward using deterioration rates until a pavement section falls below an intervention threshold.

At that point a CapEx intervention is triggered and a cost of repair calculated. All sections triggering an intervention over a five-year period are presented on an interactive dashboard.

The dashboard provides a map of the airfield with sections colour-coded according to the year for which an intervention is triggered; a five-year CapEx cost summary chart for each segment of the airfield (runway, taxiway, stands and so on); a pavement performance chart showing the change in PCI values for each segment over the five-year period; and a summary table showing the cost and year of each section that triggers an intervention.

Pavy can try out alternative investment scenarios by altering deterioration rates and intervention thresholds. Pavy also allows users to defer treatments by delaying the intervention year and automatically re-works the dashboard to reflect a user’s manual overrides.

Users can test alternative treatment strategies by assessing the impact of alternative treatments on the five-year CapEx cost and the resultant pavement performance achieved. Finally, Pavy’s export function provides reports and graphical outputs to support communications between the engineering and the finance teams.

Specific input data includes: PCI values for each section, the area of each section, the section reference and section material. Input parameters (variables) include deterioration rates, intervention thresholds and unit rates for treatments.

All input parameters are variables and can be set by the user. Default values will be provided by Jacobs based on its experience with airports in the UK, says Fitch. Other manual overrides include the option to change treatments and defer intervention years.

Data collected is stored in the Pavy cloud-based system, and used by the model under licence to an individual user. The data in Pavy is contained within a single user’s environment; it is not shared with (and cannot be accessed by) other users.

Heathrow collaboration
Jacobs began working with Heathrow in 2016. That co-operation led to the development of an Excel-based Decision Support Tool (DST), which is still in use today, Fitch informs. Jacobs invested in and developed Pavy unilaterally, taking the principles behind the DST to develop its own new online, cloud-based product.

As of now, Heathrow is continuing to use the DST to maintain the integrity of its historic data. Pavy is a new product and Jacobs is now looking for its first Pavy client.

According to Fitch, Pavy is applicable to any airport with a paved runway, whatever its size. “Jacobs is a global company and is targeting all regions in which we operate,” he declares.

Of course, the market remains tough, with airports having cut back on their investment in such a difficult time for the aviation industry. Says Fitch: “We very much appreciate the need for airports to minimise investment or put investment on hold.

“Pavy helps to inform all investment decisions by enabling the user to see high-level outcomes, in terms of pavement performance, for those investment decisions. Each airport operator will have their own plans for starting investment given their own set of circumstances. We hope Pavy will help to inform airport operators of their investment decisions, in terms of airfield performance.”