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Biometrics will connect the future of air travel Biometrics are a way of identifying someone based on physical characteristics such as DNA, fingerprints, facial structure, and even how that person walks. Now that smartphones are ditching numeric passwords in favor of biometrics, the devices can be used as a form of official ID.


“Being able to utilize biometrics will allow us to now journey from end to end through an airport without having to produce any documentation at all. No passport, no license, no ticket, no bag tag, all of it would be what they call a single token journey through your smartphone applications,” said Ridgeway.


Biometrics will do more than just speed up the checkout process when flying. They’ll also adjust your journey to match your preferences when you travel.


“You know how you look at something on a website and the next thing you know the advertisement for the same thing’s on your Facebook feed? You’re going to see that kind of thing with preferences and tailoring to individuals versus a one-size-fits-all experience, which is going to be pretty powerful,” said Ridgeway.


But biometrics can do more than just make the journey comfortable — they can also make it safer. With biometric connectivity, smartphones can store immunization records as well as data about whether the user has traveled to parts of the world dealing with an outbreak. If someone books a flight to Africa, the systems in their smartphone will know to schedule an appointment for a Yellow Fever immunization, if they haven’t already received it.


This technology isn’t a pie in the sky fantasy. Elements of it are already in place with Collins Self Pass, which integrates with almost every checkpoint in a passenger’s air travel experience. Raytheon Intelligence & Space’s Ray Trace can be used to alert people who have come in contact with someone who has a contagious illness. For example, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, Ray Trace could ping all the satellites that the contagious person was located in for the last two weeks. It will then find cellphones of people who were in the vicinity of the contagious person and send them a message that they were in proximity of an anonymous contagious person and should get tested.


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Remote air traffic control towers will open flight paths The air traffic control tower is an integral part of air travel. It directs planes on where and when to land and take off, as well as how to reroute course if bad weather or an emergency diverts a plane’s flight. Flight towers at major airports are funded by the FAA.


A remote air traffic control tower replaces traditional flight towers and the people working in them with a series of sensors and cameras. The imagery from those cameras and sensors is fused with information from radars and flight plans. This fusion matches the aircraft seen from the sensors on the ground with the flight plan that’s associated with that airplane.


“Now, as a controller, you have all that information available to you. But instead of looking at a tower, you’re actually looking at a bunch of computer displays,” said Kip Spurio, a technical director at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.


“The idea is that you can put a bunch of these sensors out there for a lot less money than building a tower and paying for the people to be there. Then you pipe that information to a central location, and as it’s being proven out in Europe, you could control multiple airports from one room, and potentially with one person.”


The remote air traffic control tower offers an affordable way to open flight paths for larger airliners to fly to more remote locations. This means that instead of taking three flights and a ferry to a remote island vacation, your small commercial connecting flight will be able to land directly on the island’s landing strip.


Digital towers can also improve the safety for large commercial and small civilian aircraft. If a flight tower needs to be evacuated because of a tornado warning, the remote virtual tower could take over and redirect flights. It can also provide safer air traffic control for smaller hubs that are popular with Cessnas or Beechcraft.


Raytheon Intelligence & Space plans to install its first virtual tower sometime in 2020. The estimated cost will be between $2 million and $3 million, as opposed to a traditional flight tower that can cost upward of $100 million.


Bell APT Takes on Medical Transport Missions


This unmanned aerial vehicle offers unlimited opportunities for logistics support, including the potential to move medical supplies, test samples, blood and more through efficient flights. Flying as a biplane, Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) travels quickly and can be scaled to support different payloads. Bell teams designed this new aircraft with the objective to aid businesses and save lives. With this in mind, they developed a valuable asset that is easy to use and integrate into current processes.


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