McLaren’s F1 technology applied to increase efficiency at Heathrow Airport
McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) is working with a consortium of blue-chip companies to improve efficiency at Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL). The group, which also includes NATS, Siemens Postal, Parcel and Airport Logistics and AVTECH Sweden AB, has won a four-year contract that will deliver enhanced capacity management capabilities throughout the UK’s busiest airport.
The first project to be undertaken by the consortium, which is being led by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic services, will involve the development of a strategic tool to enable the rapid assessment of proposed changes to airport infrastructure. McLaren is contributing its expertise in data management and simulation techniques, developed during decades in Formula 1.
Moving forwards, the project will also see MAT involved in the development of software which will help decrease the amount of time planes spend circling the airport, and improve their movement on the ground. The technology will be used by airport officials and air traffic control to optimise the arrival and departure of aircraft using the airport, which will ultimately help reduce CO2 emissions and provide a better customer experience.
The real-time software is based on the technology used by race strategists in the McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 team, and will be able to assess multiple factors that can affect efficiency including stand reallocation, taxiway closures, schedule delays and weather conditions. These data feeds will be monitored and analysed simultaneously to provide instantaneous decision making support.
This is the first time that such technology has been used by an airport, and while the initial delivery has been configured to Heathrow and the unique challenges it faces, it will be available to other airport customers around the world in the future.
Geoff McGrath, Vice President of McLaren Applied Technologies, said: “For decades McLaren has led the Formula 1 world in the use of advanced simulation technology to gain a competitive advantage and help us win races. This world leading expertise is now being used to improve the efficiency of very complex systems in a range of industries, in this case by providing cutting edge decision support tools to be used at Heathrow Airport. The combination of Formula 1 and one of the world’s busiest airports may seem unlikely, but at both Grand Prix races and Heathrow Airport we are seeking to achieve very similar goals – to increase efficiency, maintain the highest levels of safety and continually improve performance. In partnership with the other blue chip companies involved in this project, we are confident that we can make a significant difference to the efficiency and environmental impact of this crucial transport hub.”
Mike Stoller, Director of Operations (Airports) NATS, said: “For Heathrow to run an efficient and resilient airport, keeping to schedule is vital and NATS is delighted to be supporting the airport through the delivery of an innovative capacity management tool that has the potential to fundamentally change the way in which its schedule is constructed. Working with our partners, McLaren Applied Technologies, Siemens Postal, Parcel and Airport Logistics and AVTECH Sweden AB, the simulation and modelling capability will successfully support the delivery of the current scheduling process as well as enabling the simulation of any major infrastructure changes.
“This project serves as a first step towards our intent to develop a compelling airport performance proposition, which will bring new products to the market and directly support our growth agenda, as well as ensuring our current airport customers have access to innovative solutions and added value.”
Dr Andrew Robinson, Managing Director, Siemens Postal, Parcel and Airport Logistics said: “Siemens Postal, Parcel and Airport Logistics is proud to be part of the team that will deliver the technology that will improve passenger experience, reduce environmental impact and increase operational efficiency through improved capacity management at LHR, one of the busiest airports of the world. This project will provide a platform to consolidate data from previously disparate sources enabling a higher level of integration and consequentially improved airport capacity and will set the benchmark for global aviation.”
Lars Lindberg, President, AVTECH Sweden AB, said: "This is truly an exciting project for aviation. AVTECH is honoured to be a part of a game changing team which includes some of the best organisations both inside and outside of aviation. We are convinced that the team will implement an industry changing system at London's Heathrow, which will lead to a new standard in schedule forecasting throughout the world."
Derek Provan, Director of Airside Operations at Heathrow Airport said: “We are delighted to be working with NATS and their partners on the airfield capacity management solution. The innovation it offers will deliver Heathrow a step change in our capability at the same time as reducing our operating costs. We look forward to rolling out the suite of integrated tools across our business throughout this year.”
The contract with HAL is just one example of how MAT is partnering with pioneers in their respective fields and using data to improve performance, with previous examples ranging from the development of more energy efficient data centres with IO, to increasing the efficiency and accuracy of drug trials with GSK.