Changi Airport launches 5G Aviation Testbed

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The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and telecommunications company Singtel have launched a 5G Aviation Testbed at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3’s airside.

This enables companies to use 5G to trial and adopt new solutions, which would help raise productivity for critical airside functions, including aircraft ground operations, ground handling and line maintenance services.

Supported by Changi Airport Group (CAG), the testbed will last for two years. CAAS will review the results and study the potential for wide-scale deployment at Changi Airport. The 5G Aviation Testbed is one of CAAS’s air transportation industry transformation initiatives to boost manpower productivity and raise operational capabilities post-Covid.

The 5G Aviation Testbed enables companies operating at Changi Airport Terminal 3 airside to leverage 5G’s high bandwidth, high-speed connectivity and ultra-low latency to transform their operations. Two projects, which are already tapping into the 5G Aviation Testbed, are the teleoperation of autonomous vehicles (AV) and the secure ground transfer of critical flight data between aircraft and its data centers.

AV trials for baggage transportation started in 2020 to develop technology to raise manpower productivity. The 5G Aviation Testbed will raise the airport’s AV capabilities to a higher level, enabling the continuous monitoring of AV operations in real time, using high-definition video streams with low latency and high transmission stability, such that operators can supervise AV operations remotely. The testbed will enable airport stakeholders to trial procedures and systems for remote teleoperation. It will also enable CAG to learn about the different requirements for a 5G network infrastructure in the airport setting.

As part of this two-year trial, close to 4,000 Singtel 4G corporate mobile user lines at the airside have been given complimentary upgrades to 5G lines to facilitate the development of such use cases and augment the connectivity of aviation workers at the airside. Singtel is also gradually extending its 5G network coverage to encompass public areas in all terminals by the end of 2025.

Safety assurance is a critical condition for the wide-scale deployment of 5G at the airport. In consultation with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), CAG and local telecommunications companies, CAAS has developed safety guidelines and mitigation measures, such as restrictions on transmission power and antenna tilt angle, to ensure safety in flight operations.

Aviation companies interested in tapping into 5G connectivity to drive innovation and productivity initiatives at the airport may seek co-funding of such projects under the Aviation Development Fund, which supports initiatives to improve productivity in Singapore’s aviation sector through the use of innovative solutions. The companies may also leverage Singtel’s Paragon 5G Platform – an all-in-one platform for 5G multi-access edge computing (MEC) and services orchestration – to develop and deliver transformative digital solutions and services that require ultra-fast speed, hyperconnectivity and ultra-low latency.

Han Kok Juan, director-general of CAAS, said, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, we took advantage of the low-traffic environment to accelerate various technological trials, such as autonomous vehicle trials, to position the Singapore air hub for long-term growth and competitiveness post-Covid. The 5G Aviation Testbed is a critical enabler for many of these initiatives and will help boost our air hub’s operational capabilities.”

Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of Changi Airport Group, said, “The increased reliability and enhanced connectivity of the 5G network is a key enabler for Changi Airport. The technology lets us pilot systems that require reliable communications infrastructure for real-time collaboration and decision-making. One example is the transfer of high-quality video streams and low-latency control messages from autonomous vehicles, which facilitate the monitoring of vehicle operations remotely in real time. With this testbed available to the stakeholders in the airport community, we can take a collective step forward in enhancing manpower productivity and boosting operational efficiency at Changi Airport.”

Ng Tian Chong, CEO of Singtel Singapore, said, “With Singtel’s 5G powering this testbed, participating agencies and solution providers will be able to exploit our ultra-low latency, high-speed connectivity to develop and trial novel and innovative solutions that can enhance the operational efficiency and safety of flight operations at the airside and eventually apply them at scale. These solutions may include autonomous vehicles or robots that can be deployed in areas susceptible to environmental elements like lightning strikes and storms. We’re excited to be supporting Changi Airport and its partners in their continued efforts to reinvent, transform and lead the sector globally.”

To find out more about Changi International Airport’s latest developments, click here. 

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