It's the year 2100. Autonomous pods take you from home to the terminal and beyond, and biometrics allow seamless access to net-zero airports and planes. </p><div><p>What will airport travel be like in the year 2100?</p><div class="c-ad c-ad-halfpage u-show-for-small-only"><div class="c-ad__placeholder"><img class="c-ad__placeholder__logo" src="https://static.euronews.com/website/images/logos/logo-euronews-180x22-grey-6.svg" width="180" height="22" alt=""/><span>advertisement</span></div></div><p>Slovenian architect Dušan Sekulić asked himself the same question. In 2022, it won second prize in the Fentress Global Challenge, an annual international architecture competition that envisions the airport experience of the future.
Reimagining the design of the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, US, Sekulic has transformed it into a “command airport” where airport visitors will use fully autonomous pods to glide seamlessly from home to home. Destination.
They will then be hung on the “flying crown” to travel to your destination. For longer distances, the capsules can be loaded onto special aircraft to fly in a “swarm”.
“You could have your entire house or summer cottage inside a cabin, and then you transport it with flocks of other pods in the flying wings constellation to your holiday destination. You could have people who live in the same neighborhood and have a similar destination,” Sekulić told Euronews.next.
“So, the airport of the future is, in a way, just a bridge between the earth and the sky,” he added.
Sekulić believes it is important to design future airports sustainably.
“So, this design is not only possible, it is necessary. The future is exactly as we expect it to be. We have to predict it in green and we have to predict it how we want it. And this is the idea of the future as we want it to be. This is the idea of the future as we want it to be. I see that,” Sekulić said. .
Some of its design features may not be too far from reality.
Check in and pass security from your autonomous vehicle
Experts say that the number of air passengers is on the rise nowadays, and it is necessary to rethink airport design.
“The biggest challenge right now is the pace of demand growth in the aviation industry,” Robert Vitino, director of international aviation at HDR Inc, a US-based global design and engineering firm, told Euronews Next.
“More people want to travel and the infrastructure is aging. The forecast is that within 25 years we will double the demand for navigation, the ability to travel, which means that in theory, if we continue doing business as usual, we should double our needs. Infrastructure, which is not maybe”.
Last year, HDR Inc. introduced Concepts to illustrate some of the potential benefits of autonomous technology at airports.
Among them was the idea that passengers could be registered and undergo an initial security check during the trip in a self-driving car organized by an airline or airport. Baggage is delivered to a separate distribution center.
Upon arrival at the airport, passengers will undergo a “dynamic screening process” on a moving walkway equipped with facial recognition technology and advanced X-ray scanners. Passengers can talk or move freely during the whole process.
Although it sounds futuristic, the technology needed for airports to look like this is already available.
For example, South Korea implemented a facial recognition system at Incheon Airport in July, allowing passengers to skip the process of scanning boarding passes and passports.
According to the International Air Transport Association’s 2022 Global Passenger Survey, 88 per cent of passengers are satisfied with the comprehensive biometrics process, while 75 per cent of them are keen on using biometrics instead of passports or boarding passes.
However, concerns about data security remain an issue.
“I find it’s easier to implement in more tech-friendly regions like Asia or the Middle East. So, you can always look at Incheon, Changi or Dubai. They’re kind of pioneering this space,” Vitino said.
“They try to do things differently because they have a tendency to build in advance, be proactive and implement these things, whereas more traditional economies, like Western Europe or North America, tend to be a little more reactive.”
Airports and planes become net zero
Technology to make airports more sustainable is also being tested and deployed.
Sweden’s state-owned airport operator, a pioneer in sustainable air travel in Europe, aims to make all domestic flights fossil fuel-free by 2030 and all flights in Sweden by 2045.
The plan is to use electric aircraft for short distances and hydrogen aircraft for longer distances, such as flights within the European Union.
For long distances, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is being considered, which Swedavia plans to eventually produce from forest residues in Sweden.
The state-owned company recently announced a project to develop and test a 30-seat all-electric aircraft, the ES-30, developed by Swedish startup Heart Aerospace, at Malmö Airport in summer 2023.
It says the full-scale model aircraft will be tested and used to demonstrate the taxi and cargo transportation process at the airport.
“If you take into account that all these things exist, I think flying or aviation should be the most sustainable way to travel in the future because you don’t really need a lot of infrastructure,” said Lena Winberg, Sweden’s director of sustainability and environment. The manager told Euronews the following.
From firefighting teams and lawnmowers to buses inside airports, Sweden’s operations are fossil fuel-free, and its airports have already achieved carbon neutrality in 2020, becoming the first operator in Europe to reach net zero by cutting 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year in 2011.
“We’ve continually reduced our emissions. It’s really zero. This isn’t an offset or anything like that. We’re not buying any credits,” Weinberg said.
While the company is net zero, not all partners operating at Sweden’s airports are fossil fuel-free yet.
This is something Swedavia is currently working on, with the hope that the entire airport and all other companies and organizations operating there will become fossil fuel-free by 2030, in conjunction with the Fossil-Free Sweden Initiative launched by the Swedish government.
Swedavia hopes to become an international role model and share its sustainability knowledge through close cooperation with airports in Europe and around the world.
In 2019, 200 airports in 45 European countries pledged to be fossil fuel-free by 2050.
“We work very closely with European airports… This fall, we started cooperating with (among others) Hamburg Airport to improve the use of hydrogen at airports. And a lot of Baltic airports (are also included in this program). So, we are here,” said Weinberg. “We are trying to exchange ideas and experiences between all airports in this field.”
“We have all kinds of machines, tools or vehicles that are common in society. So, if we can eliminate emissions, everyone can do it. It’s not very difficult. It’s not very expensive either,” she added.
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