Awesome Ways Dubai International Airport Uses AI

Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest airports on Earth (ranked 3rd in 2018 on the Airports Council International’s world traffic report). It is also at the frontier of artificial intelligence, much like the other sectors in the United Arab Emirates, possibly due to the fact it has a government that focuses on AI; it has an AI Strategy and a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence with a mandate to invest in AI tools.

Dubai International Airport is the primary international airport serving Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic.

Dubai International Airport is the primary international airport serving Dubai, United Arab Emirates and is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic.

AI Customs Officials

According to the Emirates Ministry of the Interior, immigration officers will be replaced by AI, and thus will no longer be needed by the year 2020. Their goal is for travellers to be able to walk through an AI-controlled security system and be scanned, without the need for removing belts etc. There has already been experimentation at the airport with a virtual aquarium smart gate, where people move through a tunnel surrounded by fish. As they viewed the fish around them, cameras were able to see every angle of their faces, permitting rapid identification.

AI Baggage Handling

The president of Emirates (the globe’s largest long-haul carrier) states AI, particularly robots, ought to already be being used for baggage service e.g. identifying, putting the bags in the correct bins, taking them out the plane (without human intervention). These robots would bear a resemblance to those currently used at Amazon’s warehouses.

Air Traffic Management

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is researching ways of using AI in air traffic control in partnership with Searidge Technologies. In 2018, the GCAA director-general reiterated that the UAE’s strategy is to explore how AI and other emerging technologies could improve the country’s aviation industry. This work in optimising efficiency and safety within air traffic management is very important, and could impact operations in the field globally.

Automated Vehicles

Soon, self-driving vehicles powered via AI and 100% solar/electrical energy will be assisting the Dubai International Airport in increasing efficiency in its routine operations, such as improvements between ground transportation and air travel. In the future, autonomous vehicles (already packed with your bags) could greet you at the airport exit. There is speculation that AI could make luggage carts move autonomously to transfer your begs to your hotel/home, removing the need for baggage carousels and the hassle of thinking about your bags.

Staff Clearance

While a lot of effort is put into vetting passengers to guarantee safety during air travel, many see the biggest security threat as emanating from airport personnel. For instance, an EgyptAir mechanic, baggage handler and two police officers were arrested in connection with the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268, an event which lead to 224 deaths, and border force officers in Australia have been arrested due to their connections with drug smugglers. AI could refine the staff clearance process through upgrading staff entrances to allow more control using biometrics, facial recognition and replacing CCTV as the main form of monitoring.

AI Projects in Development

Emirates is working on a variety of AI projects, including using AI to help travellers pick up their onboard meals, arranging a taxi pickup, personalising the experience to each individual Emirates passenger and teaching cabin crew. Their current main goal is to create a queue-less airplane boarding experience.

AI at Other Airports

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has the world’s first biometric airport terminal, and Dubai International Airport is using a similar device for first and business class travellers. Here are some other plans airports and airlines have for AI:

  • Cybersecurity - there has been a shift from identification of cybersecurity threats to preventing them using AI in response to the recent digitalisation across aviation.

  • Immersive experience - augmented reality may help travellers navigate through airports.

  • Voice recognition - at Heathrow Airport (London), travellers can ask Alexa to receive flight updates. Furthermore, United Airlines lets them check in to their flight using Google Assistant through the simple phrase “Hey Google, check into my flight”.

As innovation accelerates, there will be many areas for abuse when utilising these AI tools. However, if AI can remove the biggest issues from travel, we can expect the majority of people to be willing to exchange some of their privacy for a superior experience using AI.