SATS, a provider of gateway and food services in Asia, has announced the introduction of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses in its ramp handling operations. The company claims the move is a world first.

The ergonomically designed smart glass will provide SATS’ ramp handling staff with critical information such as loading instructions in real-time. Using the wearable AR technology, operators will be able to scan visual markers found on baggage and cargo containers that provide details such as weight, unit number, loading sequence and the allocated position within the aircraft. This hands-free process improves safety, and increases the accuracy and efficiency of baggage and cargo loading.

‘See what I see’

The smart glass comprises a monocular display and onboard processor with video recording features and wireless connectivity capabilities. Video streaming enhances the visibility of ramp handling operations across the airport by providing the ramp smart control centre a real-time view of on-ground processes. With the ‘see-what-I-see’ feature, flight controllers within the control centre can better supervise and provide instructions to operators on how to handle cargo with special handling requirements. In addition, they would also have enhanced oversight of the loading process, which will enable greater flexibility in manpower management.

SATS says the technological initiative increases productivity and can potentially shorten loading time by as much as 15 minutes.

This would create competitive advantages for airline customers who could reduce waiting times for passengers and shorten transit times for airfreight shippers.

The project was developed in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, which co-funded the development cost.

Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, said, “I congratulate SATS on the launch of its cutting edge augmented reality smart glass for ramp handling. This innovation will directly benefit our airport workers, raising their productivity and making their workplace safer. This is the way to tap on technology to keep our airport and airlines ahead of their competition.”

Managing the change

SATS will be introducing the smart glass in phases with full implementation expected by mid of next year. Change management will be critical, with almost 600 staff undergoing training. SATS is also investing in next-generation training aids including virtual reality technology which is a highly visual approach that can simulate accurate on-ground scenarios within a safe and controlled environment. This also allows staff to undergo training at their own convenience.

Alex Hungate, President and Chief Executive Officer, SATS, said: “With passenger demand forecast to double by 2035 to 7.2 billion air travellers, we are preparing to handle more passengers, aircraft and airfreight. SATS is embracing technology to handle these volume increases in an innovative, sustainable way. By introducing augmented reality to our ground handling operations, we are improving services for airlines, passengers and airfreight shippers.”