AI expert uses research to support the airport industry to recover from pandemic

As airports prepare to welcome back holiday passengers following the Covid-19 pandemic, an AI expert from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is using his research to help the industry recover.

Dr Mario Gongora is the creator of VenueSim, a company which provides an AI services to airports, helping staff to manage the sometimes chaotic passenger flow and even make predictions on future patterns.

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However, the data gathered over the years was based on pre-pandemic patterns. Global passenger numbers at the world’s airports fell by 64.6% in 2020, according to a survey released last month. That means that huge amounts of data collected and used to ‘train’ artificial intelligence will not be helpful to airports trying to plan for the ‘new normal’.

Dr Gongora said the challenge was to use what learnings they could derive from the AI to support airports looking for low-cost alternatives.

He said: “Many AI based  industry solutions are based on Machine Learning which depend on large amounts of relevant historical data; the pandemic has made all historical trends obsolete, so there will be many years before we have enough data again to depend on ML alone. We now need to use solutions which we can feed from explicit knowledge and assumptions from human experts; and AI tools that allow the same for the near future.”

Dr Gongora’s guidance has contributed significantly to a handbook that has been published for thousands of airport staff around the world by the ACI (Airports Council International). It aims to support airport operations during recovery and help advise on providing a safe, secure experience for passengers, staff, and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

It updates and brings together the best elements of managing security from the current experience of airports around the world. The handbook also provides many examples and options for different operating environments.

In collaboration with Smart Security Management Group, this handbook identifies solutions and wider applications of simpler and more affordable security initiatives. DMU is the only university in the world to contribute its research to it.

More details about the handbook and other ACI publications can be found here

The ACI, created in 1991, is a worldwide association of airport operators which develops standards and recommended practices in the areas of safety, security and environment initiatives.