Advanced tech will benefit PLB systems at the GCC’s airports
With pressure mounting to build faster, better, and cheaper, prefabrication presents an opportunity to boost efficiency while at the same time cutting costs
Thomas Fabian is programme director at Parsons Overseas Ltd.
Apron-drive passenger loading bridges (PLBs) are among the most advanced building conveyance systems in use in the GCC today.
By using smart technology and improved cable logistics to enhance energy conservation, performance, and ease of use for ramp personnel, PLBs are adapting and improving fast. Operators need to meet the demands of larger aircraft, more baggage and passengers, and this is being achieved with the use of improved equipment.
For modern PLBs, elements to convey late-arriving carry-on luggage and rush baggage movements from the operator cab interior directly to the apron are paramount. Where previous PLB models used simple chutes or slides outrigger-mounted to the cab service stairs, next-generation models use vertical baggage lift conveyances that improve the efficiency of baggage off-loading, especially when it comes to large, overweight carry-on bags. Many of the latest mechanical conveyance systems are designed with smart controls and lockout features to reduce power consumption.
Smart technology, smarter bridges
It is possible to monitor PLBs in near-real time. Integrating the bridge with a building management system and lighting control systems allows for extra monitoring and ease of maintenance by consolidating the integration touchpoints into a single cabinet.
PLBs can also work with building air-conditioning and lighting systems to regulate temperature and interior tunnel lighting, conserving energy consumption.
Because each PLB tunnel can have its own lighting relay modules, this control can be accomplished on a section-by-section basis, whether the PLB space faces a tunnel glass wall or is enclosed in metal slat external siding. In a PLB stowed in its inactive position, air-conditioning and lighting can be shut down to place the PLB systems in rest mode. Once in active mode, all of these systems will start up automatically.
Next-gen PLB tunnel walls can be made out of insulated, corrugated composite metal wall panels, flush insulated metal panels, or tinted, laminated glass tunnel walls with low-emission and anti-glare coatings. These options deliver energy enhancements. Dot-screen film can be applied to PLB tunnel glass panels, as well. This process enhances the energy conservation of the glass units by providing solar gain reduction and solar shading features, which helps to reduce glass wall reflective glare.
When it comes to selecting the right materials, laminated safety glass always has an advantage over tempered glass. The laminated version will break up into large shards upon impact and will usually remain intact in the glazing retainer gasket. Other products, such as tempered ‘insulglass’ for example, may form bullet-like fragments upon impact.
Closed-circuit television surveillance has enhanced the line of sight for PLB operators by delivering an improvement over side-mounted operator cab rearview convex mirrors, proximity warning sensors, and limit switches.
Advancements in camera technology have enabled drivers of next-gen PLBs to view ground-level staff, loose items, and ground support equipment vehicles. It has also helped to improve visibility in former blind spots, and this improved visibility has led to greater apron safety and cut the risk of incident exposure on the apron.
Future-proof gate equipment
Next-gen PLBs also offer computer and telecommunications connectivity. This can future-proof gate equipment and systems by enabling them to use PLB signal transmission cabling as a multi-vendor system communication bus conduit from the gate point-of-use equipment to the passenger terminal building’s secondary communication rooms. This means that PLBs can act as a technology cross-integrator medium.
In simple terms, it feeds building management, CCTV, and lighting control systems, and automated crew management card readers, as well as electronic visual information display systems, records management systems, and gate management databases. The integration of cross-building PLB systems meets the needs of aviation executives, bridge operators, and facilities managers, helping all three to achieve semi-automated building management.