Parking assistance for aircraft

At the Fraunhofer Institute, Dr. Volker Gengenbach has developed an automatic video-based docking guidance system that replaces the need for groundcrew.

At the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing (IITB) in Karlsruhe, Dr. Volker Gengenbach has developed an automatic video-based docking guidance system that replaces the need for groundcrew for the last few metres and centimetres in the aircraft docking process.

In operation, the groundcrew first enters the aircraft type and expected arrival time into a computer. A video camera on the outside wall of the building then acquires an image of the aircraft as it taxis in. The camera can handle extreme contrasts, working reliably in even glaring sunlight or under the limited visibility conditions of a snowstorm.

Using available model data, the docking approach path and optimal stopping position are then calculated on a PC.

‘The approach line is measured ten to twenty times per second,’ explains Gengenbach. ‘The system compares an ideal path with the actual path by transposing a three-dimensional aircraft model projection onto the outline contours extracted from the multiple images,’ he says.

The pilot then receives the distance and direction data needed to execute the required corrections.

In addition to providing parking guidance, the docking system also functions as a parking meter, measuring down to the second how long the aircraft is parked at the gate. This provides the airport with a basis for calculating the airline’s parking fees.

At his spinoff company Gevitec, Dr. Gengenbach is working on customising the system to the characteristics of individual airports.

His next goal: automatic type identification of incoming aircraft!