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Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Sensor Technology Applications for General Aviation Airports

The aviation industry is keenly aware of the need for increased safety and security at airports. However, most of the focus is on larger, commercial service airports located in large, urban areas. Many of these airports are receiving monies to upgrade passenger and facilities security as funding for these airports is more readily available. Smaller general aviation airports, including rural airports that support local economies, have limited funding and resources available to upgrade the safety and security features at their facility.   A critical need exists to examine low-cost technologies that can be used to increase the safety and security at general aviation airport.
Intrusions to a small general aviation airport’s property can come from both people and animals, creating both safety problems as well as security concerns. As these small airports develop, they attract more and more people who may not be familiar with the procedures for operating on the airport. Providing low cost safety and security solutions could go a long way in improving operational safety and security at these airports. In many cases, access to general aviation airports is uncontrolled. Limited access controls and/or airport design anomalies that have hangars and taxiways very close to the landside facilities, can create safety issues for many small airports that may be preventable with simple, low cost solutions. Airport operators have encountered many situations where someone has driven or walked up to aircraft when they had no legitimate reason for being there. Others have inadvertently driven onto the airside without knowing it as they attempted to visit a business located on the airport. While one solution may be the use of a short fence to limit access around the airport perimeter, a short fence is not effective at preventing deer and other large animals from routinely traversing the runway environment.   Many solutions will have similar trade-offs.
Many of the sensing technologies used in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) may provide solutions to these and other general aviation security and safety issues. Vehicular traffic signal controllers use pavement “loops” to sense the presence of vehicle demand at intersections and parking lot entrances. Some cities use pressure pads to sense the presence of pedestrians waiting to cross a roadway. Both of these technologies have a low installed cost. Radar and acoustic sensors are also used for detecting vehicles in the roadway. They are slightly more expensive than “loops” but have an advantage in that installation is non-invasive. Infrared sensors are used to indicate when large animals enter a roadway right-of-way. Video detectors are more expensive than radar and acoustic technologies, but they have a distinct advantage in that they offer a video image of an area of interest while providing the necessary detections of vehicles or other artifacts. A new, in-ground, passive technology still under research may provide linear coverage of more than 10 miles. This technology may ultimately have the capability of providing perimeter coverage for general aviation airports and possibly be adaptable to include runway location information.
In discussing these new technologies with aviation professionals, it was surprising to learn that they are not aware of ITS sensing technologies and/or their potential uses in the general aviation airport operating environment. Many airports with limited on-site personnel could benefit from even the most basic applications such as knowing of a vehicle intrusion onto the airport grounds. A fully installed “loop” sensor to provide such notification only costs approximately $750. Better questions include what is the full scope of ITS sensing technologies available and how can they be deployed to address and solve the security and safety concerns of our smaller, but no less important, airports. Answers could include any non-traditional applications or configurations of ITS sensor technologies that could be useful to airports and/or airport system planners.
III.           OBJECTIVE
                The objective of this research is to determine what ITS technologies are applicable to addressing and solving security and safety issues present at general aviation airports. 
                The first phase in this research will identify ITS technologies already in use in commercial and general aviation airports for security and safety purposes. This phase would be accomplished through a state-of-the art review and a survey. The survey would also identify general aviation airport security and safety needs. The survey results will be synthesized into a state-of-the-practice summary and a set of requirements/needs that can be met by various ITS sensor technologies. Those needs will also be analyzed to determine what non-traditional applications or configurations may be useful.
Based on phase one findings, the research team will formulate an implementation plan for phase two and discuss this plan with the project panel. In phase two of the research, several of the technologies will be installed at general aviation airports to evaluate their performance in the aviation environment. The effectiveness of the technologies and applications of these installations will be evaluated, documented, and reviewed with the project panel. The research team will develop a guidebook showing the safety and security concerns identified at general aviation airports and the technologies available to assist in addressing and solving them. All research conducted will be documented in a final research report.
Recommended Funding: The funding necessary to accomplish this research is estimated to be $350,000. This includes staffing, travel, equipment purchases, and installation of equipment.
Research Period: The estimated time needed to complete this research is 24 months, including report review time.
                Addressing security and safety issues at large airports continues to be a prime concern. However, people are now recognizing that general aviation airport operators face many of the same issues but may not know how to go about resolving them. People familiar with one mode of transportation are often reluctant to look at and apply technology that is used in other modes. Even though the aviation and surface modes are part of the same transportation infrastructure, some agencies and operators may perceive them as distinct domains. What they do not realize is that a number of sensor technologies already in use in surface transportation may be applicable and effective at general aviation airports. The low cost solutions to security and safety issues in the surface mode may be effective and beneficial for the general aviation airports. 
                Many research projects have investigated the application of various technologies in the surface transportation and ITS arena. However, there does not appear to be prior research examining the application of these technologies with respect to general aviation airports.
                Jeff Borowiec                                                                        Bob Brydia                           
Associate Research Scientist                                            Associate Research Scientist
Texas Transportation Institute                                          Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M University System                                The Texas A&M University System
3135 TAMU                                                                          3135 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3135                                         College Station, TX 77843-3135
(979) 845-5200                                                                       (979) 845-8140
jborowiec@tamu.edu                                                          r-brydia@tamu.edu
Robert De Roche                                                                  Dan Middleton
Senior Research Specialist                                                 Program Manager/Research Engineer
Texas Transportation Institute                                          Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M University System                                The Texas A&M University System
3135 TAMU                                                                          3135 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3135                                         College Station, TX 77843-3135
 (979) 845-6154                                                                      (979) 845-7196
b-deroche@tamu.edu                                                          d-middleton@tamu.edu
                This problem statement is the product of the collaboration of the two researchers named above and was submitted to AV020, the Aviation System Planning Committee, for review and endorsement.
April 22, 2008
Jeff Borowiec

Sponsoring Committee:AV020, Aviation System Planning
Date Posted:04/30/2008
Date Modified:04/30/2008
Index Terms:General aviation airports, Intelligent transportation systems, Sensors, Traffic signal controllers, Acoustics, Traffic safety, Airport runways,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Data and Information Technology
Planning and Forecasting
Terminals and Facilities

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