• 14 DEC 2020


In October, six IAG Tech graduates joined the Hangar 51 team. As bright, young individuals with fresh ideas, we wanted to hear all the innovative ideas they had for us during this pandemic. In this post we will take a look at the ideas from Faidon Filipsson, William Masterton and Porshia Athow.

Faidon Filipsson 

Faidon is a product designer and composer with a big fascination for bees



One of the most important technological advancement in today’s world is the implementation of AI to make everyday life easier. In the aviation industry, AI could make flying faster, easier, safer and more sustainable. AI, together with machine vision, is already changing the way we can optimise our ground handling of aircraft; turn arounds, loading and refuelling. But how could we take this a step further to optimise the whole airport infrastructure?

Work has already started to make landing patterns more sustainable, but what happens to the aircraft once they touch the ground? They are handed of to the ground tower control from where they are directed to a gate via taxi ways. The ground tower controllers are the ones overseeing all the movement from the approach to the taxiing to the gate. In large airports like LHR there are many different taxiways and two runways which can create a lot of burden for the controllers. A lot of ATC technology outdated and based on legacy practices[1].

With captAIn, using machine vision and AI, would be able to track an aircraft landing, and using an AI voice chatbot, be able to direct the aircraft from the runway to gate. At the same time captAIn would be able to approve and guide aircraft through taxi routes for departure as well. This would alleviate a lot of pressure from the ground controllers, congestion and be able to optimise and predict better taxiing routes, ultimately making airport structure more sustainable. The cameras would be positioned to gain a 360-degree view of the airport with addition cameras placed closed to the runways and along the taxiways to capture aircraft on approach and for low visibility tracking. For low visibility approaches data would also be streamed from the aircrafts ILS until touchdown, where the cameras would take over.

The benefits of using captAIn are twofold: optimizing taxiing routes on multiple aircraft simultaneously, even before they land, or when departing. This would be able to predict and plan taxi routes to get the aircraft to the stand faster and without wait times, cutting fuel costs. The second benefit is helping ATC manage workloads, taking a lot of pressure off planning taxi routes that could cause congestion.

[1] https://www.economist.com/international/2019/06/15/air-traffic-control-is-a-mess


William Masterton

Will joined Hangar 51 as part of the IAG Tech Graduate Programme and graduated from Queen Mary University of London in 2019 with a degree in Materials Science. Outside of work Will enjoys cycling and running.

Autonomous luggage delivery

This is a new solution to luggage transport aimed at making a passenger’s journey easy, stress-free and the perfect start to a trip away. Gone are the days of hauling your suitcase on the Piccadilly Line or Heathrow Express and arriving at the airport exhausted, depleted and wishing you’d never booked a flight in the first place. This system takes the hassle out of this by collecting your bags from your door, checking them in for you and then reuniting you with them at your destination.

My proposed solution uses a network of drones and a pneumatic tube system which allows the quick, efficient delivery of hold luggage to the airport. Suitcases are collected from the home or place of work by autonomous drones which will weigh your bags then and there, before delivering them to your nearest sorting hub. On arrival, the luggage is loaded into pods. The pods run through a country-wide network of pneumatic tubes before arriving at the airport, here they join the existing baggage system to be sorted and loaded onto the correct flight. Meanwhile, the passenger can travel to the airport with just hand luggage, allowing for a more pleasant and relaxing start to their holiday. This solution ties in well with the ‘hub and spoke’ model which many airlines use.

The benefits of this system include reduced numbers of cars travelling to airports, with a greater focus on using public transport and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As a result of this, it may be possible to redevelop additional airport parking into green spaces, which will contribute to carbon offsetting measures. Additionally, using this new solution alongside online check-in, travellers will be able to go straight to the security gates when they arrive at the airport. The need for check-in desks will be significantly reduced, allowing for a reduction in running costs for airlines. Once the system is fully operational, check-in desks may only be required for items which are too large to be carried through the luggage transport system. Further to this, connecting flights to the hub airport will no longer need to carry luggage as it can travel separately to the passenger through the tube network. This greatly reduces both the fuel cost and the emissions released during the flight. It is possible to achieve a weight reduction up to 23kg per passenger, or more depending on the baggage limits for the onward connecting flight.

Porshia Athow 

Porshia joined IAG’s Technology graduate scheme after completing a conversion Masters in Software Development. Aside from her interest in technology she enjoys writing, cooking, and travelling.

Digital Twin

A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset, which can include places, processes and entire systems.

This virtual model provides a high level of data analysis, allowing the user to simulate processes and situations to anticipate problems, predict scenarios and develop opportunities for growth and optimisation.

The data required to create a digital twin can be collected in a cost-effective way, thanks to the growth of the Internet of Things and smart sensors which can collect physical data with increasing ease.

A digital twin of airports and airside processes would allow IAG to create and test new airport processes without physically implementing them until their safety and effectiveness has been confirmed through the virtual model. This will aid in the decision-making process and hopefully cut the costs of lengthy trials.

Airport processes could be simulated for different scenarios and optimised to be as Covid-safe and comfortable for customers as possible. Social distancing and efficient airport flow could be modelled, so that bottlenecks causing crowding, delays, and inconvenience do not occur as passenger numbers begin to rise again.

The situation is likely to continue changing and evolving as we work our way through this crisis and its aftermath. With options such as temperature checks and 5-minute testing becoming possible in the future, it’s important that airlines and airports are able to anticipate the effect this will have on the passenger experience in order to ensure maximum customer satisfaction and safety.

If customers have confidence in the processes being put into place in airports, air travel will become a more attractive option to all, helping the aviation industry get back on its feet again.