The National Academies

ACRP 10-31 [Active]

Guidebook for Virtual Airport Ramp Control Operations Facilities

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Staff Responsibility: Theresia H. Schatz
Research Agency: Ricondo
Principal Investigator: Robert Varani
Effective Date: 3/12/2021
Completion Date: 9/11/2022

While there are several airports around the world employing virtual operations to manage ramp activity, there has been little research or testing on the use of virtual operations including remote locations of ramp towers. While the FAA has oversight of airspace and movement areas, ramp control in the non-movement area is the responsibility of the airport operator, an airline, or a third party. Efforts are underway to manage local air traffic operations from virtual facilities, which permit the control facility to be located anywhere with secure electronic communication capability.  
ACRP Research Report 167: Guidebook for Developing Ramp Control Facilities has provided key airport considerations when developing ramp control facilities; however, additional research to determine how to implement a virtual ramp control operation is needed.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook, to include a roadmap, that provides U.S. airport operators and their stakeholders* at a variety of types* and sizes of airports, the ability to implement virtual ramp control operations. The guidebook should include, but not be limited to, these considerations:
  • Safety of aircraft and ground operations;  
  • Maintain and improve operational efficiencies;
  • Contingencies for potential network or system outages;
  • Integration of surface management processes and practices (e.g., Collaborative Decision Making (CDM));
  • Weather events (i.e., deicing, snow removal and low visibility operations, etc.);
  • Effective coordination techniques with all airport operational stakeholders (i.e., other ramp towers, air traffic control (ATC), airport operations center (AOC) , and Letters of Agreement or Memoranda of Understanding);
  • Staffing levels and training competencies (i.e., human factors);
  • Management of gate and remain overnight (RON) positions;
  • Coordination of airline services (e.g., baggage, cargo, maintenance, and customer service);
  • Budgetary implications with a calculation of return on investment (ROI)  for overall feasibility; and
  • Advantages and disadvantages for the development of virtual ramp control operations.  
 The roadmap, which is a series of steps, decision points, and actions that need to be taken to implement a virtual facility, should include, but is not limited to, these components:
  • Video systems capability;
  • Data connectivity;
  • Usage for gate management data systems;
  • Surface and area aircraft surveillance capabilities;
  • Requirements for communication systems (i.e., air-to-ground / ground-to-ground); and
  • Consideration of resilience and IROPS for continuity of service.

The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.

The research plan should include appropriate deliverables for ACRP approval that include at minimum:

1.  Develop best practices and lessons learned from existing virtual ramp control and ATC facilities with an outreach to airports, air carriers, and third-party service providers to get their expertise. This should be incorporated into an Appendix to the guidebook;
2. An interim report that describes work done in early tasks with an outline of the guidebook, a preliminary draft of the roadmap, and an updated work plan for remaining tasks.
The research plan should include other appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate. 
The final deliverables will include: (1) guidebook and accompanying roadmap incorporated as an Appendix that meet the research objective; and (2) (a) a Summary of Key Findings; (b) a Further Recommended Research Memo; and (c) a technical memo titled  “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.

Ricondo is conducting the research - underway. 

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