AI suitcase for the blind

TOKYO: It won’t be long and the visually impaired can independently travel at airports with the development of the “AI suitcase.”

This AI-powered lightweight suitcase for the blind developed by IBM is equipped with image-recognition camera to detect surroundings and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging to measure distances to objects), reported the BBC.

It’s the brain-child of Dr. Chieko Asakawa who at age 14 lost her vision after damaging her optic nerve in a swimming pool accident. Since then, the Japanese computer scientist has devoted her time to help transform the lives of other visually impaired people across the world through her inventions and innovations at IBM Japan where she works as a researcher, mainly developing software programs for the visually impaired computer users.

Her condition didn’t deter Dr. Asakawa from going to the university. She studied English literature and a computer science course for the blind before earning her Ph.D. in Engineering at the University of Tokyo. She is credited for creating the early digital Braille innovations and creating the world’s first practical web-to-speech browser.
She also developed NavCog, a voice-controlled smartphone app that helps blind people navigate complicated indoor locations. The app is currently available in Tokyo and the US but IBM Intends to make it public globally later on.

Dubai to introduce Sky Pods

DUBAI: Holding the record as the world’s longest driverless metro line, Dubai is about to outdo its own record with the introduction of Sky Pods, the AI-powered autonomous vehicles traveling at speed of 150 kph.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, described the pods as “a futuristic mobility system that requires one tenth the infrastructure of conventional transit systems.”
The project is part of the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) continuing research on how to utilize artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility and shared mobility/transport for public benefits.
“Dubai thinks out-of-the-box… It is taking bold steps with the aim of kick-starting a revolution in transportation by undertaking new projects such as the Dubai Sky pods, a futuristic mobility system that requires one tenth the infrastructure of conventional transit systems,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan who inspected this month two models of Sky Pods that will be introduced in the city which will host World Expo in 2020.
Unibike, the first Sky Pod model, can hold 1 to 5 riders traveling at maximum speed of 150 kph. In an hour, that could translate to 20,000 riders.
Unicar, the other model, is designed to travel up to a distance of 200 km, with 6 maximum passengers. That’s about 50,000 riders per hour traveling at maximum speed of 150KPH.

The aviation marketing guru with affinity for spacecraft and Neil Armstrong

Sitting comfortably in a sofa inside the huge Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) displayed at the recently held the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Show in Dubai, David Velupillai met with Air Cargo Update and looked back at his over 40 years aviation career.

With the Airbus team, Velupillai flew aboard the luxurious jet for the show, one of the perks of being with the world’s second largest space company and the top 10 in defense.
“We were lucky enough, the team and I, flew in this aircraft from Europe,” says David on flying with the latest model of ACJ. “The thing about an airbus corporate jet is it got this comfortable space. You have a much better travel experience because you can talk face to face with people. The cabins are wide and tall so it’s very easy to move around.”

David has worn many hats in his long and illustrious aviation career which began when he completed his Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honors Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Bristol University in the UK. After graduation, he worked as design engineer at the Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hatfield.

He also worked as aviation journalist reporting on airlines, avionics, engines and spaceflight, eventually becoming the technical editor of the Flight International Magazine in 1978.

In 1984, he joined the Airbus Press Department in Toulouse where David says he had the “opportunity to share in, and communicate on, the birth and evolution of all of the modern Airbus airliner families, from the A320, through the A330/A340 and A350, and up to the double-deck A380.”

In 2006, David was promoted Marketing Director for Airbus Executive & Private Aviation where he was mainly involved in marketing all of the company’s corporate jets. He is currently responsible for Airbus Corporate Jet Communications worldwide.

With his engineering background, journalistic experience and fluent spoken French and English, David thrived in the corporate world of Airbus, flying in style to as many cities as you can possibly think and meeting topnotch names in global business, entertainment and politics.

His journey from engineering to journalism unto the corporate media may have been farfetched but David is content and happy with the turn of events and the many surprising ways it has rewarded him.
David shares his favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost which talks about designing your own path.
In his spare time, David says he spends it doing models of aircraft and spacecraft. “I’m interested in all kinds of aviation and space so at home I’m making models of spacecraft. I’m also a fan of the moon landing.”
Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut who made history on July 20, 1969 as the first man who landed on the moon, is his personal hero.

Asked why, David says: “Neil Armstrong is somebody who is quite reticent. He didn’t say very much. He’s an engineering test pilot. He’s someone who has overcome so many personal tragedies. One of his children died at a young age and his house burned down in a fire. But despite all this, he did fly to the moon.”
“He’s a modest man with many great achievements and accomplished great things.”

India needs morewell connected industrial parks

An industrial park is defined as an area reserved for developing industries with ready access to major infrastructure and transportation. Usually initiated and funded by state governments with preplanned projects developed, managed and regulated by a government entity, they often lead to success with the right formula and to devastating losses if not utilized.

In recent years, private sector-led industrial parks have emerged in India such as the Information Technology Park (ITPL), Bangalore; Infocity, Hyderabad; Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, among many others.

Anuj Puri, Chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants Private Limited, said government investments on industrial parks are paying off with the international market now looking at India as a reliable export/import source.

“Transport infrastructure is a vital ingredient for a nation’s growth, and the incumbent Government is taking decisive steps towards creating it. The deployment of necessary support infrastructure has definitely increased, even involving the PPP model involving foreign companies. In fact, countries with the appropriate expertise and resources now view India as a major market that can harness their skills and technology in connecting the width and breadth of the country,” said Puri.

“While the infrastructure creation may seem slow if we look at the overall numbers, the fact is that India is the fastest-growing economy precisely because of this new focus on infrastructure creation. Connectivity between seaports and airports with major industries is being ramped up and we will see the industrial sector grow manifold because of this in the years to come,” he noted.

Globally India’s developing mixed economy ranks as the 6th largest economy by nominal GDP & the 3rd largest by purchasing power parity.

Cumulative benefits

Industries that operate within an industrial park usually enjoy a lot of benefits in terms of taxes and incentives, including buying and selling raw materials and products, thus, reduce their production costs.

Industrial parks also offer readily available skilled labor force, repair, maintenance, and services facilities. They also help companies gain access to banks and other financial institutions.

Puri explained the idea of having an industrial park was based on several principles which mainly involves the allocation of specialized infrastructure in selected areas with the aim of decreasing costs connected to building infrastructure, thus, increasing a country’s capabilities to attract new investors.

These parks have readily available infrastructure such as roads, water, telecommunications and electricity, thus, enabling companies to immediately operate their business.

Often, these parks are located outside of the cities because of the vast land of property required. But newly-built ones are now connected to important highways and roadways, facilitating easy transportation of goods manu-factured.
“Industrial parks choose remote locations because their land requirements are massive and land is cheaper in remote locations. Also, many industries must be located away from residential areas because of their emissions and effluents, meaning that their presence can have negative ramifications for the environment and human life. In other words, the problems brought on by the remoteness of location are largely self-induced,” explained Puri.

“That said, industrial parks still depend on manpower and logistics, and both people and goods need to be able to move between them without having to face impossible odds brought on by infrastructure deficit,” he added.
But under the Narendra Modi government industrial parks are being connected to seaports and airports for easy transportation of commodities.

“Thankfully, the incumbent government is taking these issues very seriously, not least of all because of the need to generate employment and the ‘Make in India’ program. Moreover, given the massive amount of funding flowing into the infrastructure and logistics sectors, we will definitely see progress on this front in the years to come,” said Puri.

“Connectivity between seaports and airports with major industries is being ramped up and we will see the industrial sector grow manifold because of this in the years to come,” he noted.

Connectivity setbacks

The main aim of an industrial park is to provide solution to a cluster of industries with ready infrastructure. Connectivity plays a major role when it comes to the location of the industrial park.

The type and the size of the industries located in the park plays a major role when connectivity is concerned. For example, if there are export oriented units then it is advisable that the park is located close to the seaports and airports. The case is the same for industries that need imported goods to manufacture their final products.

Close proximity to main highways, roads, seaports and airports are very important for many companies in industrial parks as it means reduced time in transporting products, saving them valuable time and resources.

Road connections and traffic density also play a major role in the swift delivery of goods to seaports or airports. But many of the Indian states are not well connected sea and the option left is that the park can be connected via rail or inter land container depot.

This connectivity will not only reduce the transportation time but will reduce the cost incurred in the same. Wide and smooth roads are needed in India to make the connectivity better for the industries in the remote areas. A popular trend which is generally seen these days is to set up eco system of industries within the same region.
Some industries have strong sea freight logistics support, enabling them faster routing of products within the country. Logistics affects directly or indirectly the production cost of any industry. Proximity to the sea coast is one of the most cost effective ways to transport cargo.

The Indian government and the private sector both agree better infrastructure & modes of trans-portation will improve business in the country gearing up to be a leading global manufacturer in various industries.
The country has also embraced automation to speed up the manu-facturing process along with building more smart warehouses.

“Automation is a major focus area in countries where labor costs are high. While this is not the case in India, warehousing and logistics have necessarily been adopting new relevant technologies for the movement, storage and inventorying of goods because of the higher efficiency that technology offers,” said Puri.
“The proliferating ecommerce sector has been a major driver behind tech-boosted efficiency in India, and has in fact made logistics and warehousing one of the biggest focus areas for private equity funding and other institutional investments,” he added.

With a young population, India’s economic outlook remains positive. Its exports for 2017-18 was valued at over US$300 billion, mainly on agricultural, fuels and mining products.

OpticalLock: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Theft takes heavy toll on the cargo industry every year with losses amounting to billions. But today’s advanced technologies and cargo tampering devices are bent on protecting the goods while in transit.

If there’s not enough protection, physically or by law, cargo transiting to another country en route to its final destination, may be stolen or tampered with.

Increasing cargo volumes globally demand stringent regulations and protection, according to industry experts.
In a report titled ‘Cargo handling Equipment’ market by Application (Air, Land & Marine) Equipment, Propulsion and Region – Global Forecast to 2025 published by Markets and Markets, it was pointed out that cargo handling market equipment is projected to rise at a CAGR of 3.61%, during the forecast period, to reach market size of $28.02 billion by 2025.

Carol Fuller, CEO of OpticalLock, explains to Air Cargo Update how OpticalLock ensures the cargo arriving safely with zero chances of it been compromised.

Protection and Security

The OpticalLock OPTi-100 series of devices includes three components: lock hardware, cloud-based management software and a field user mobile app to provide multiple layers of security for the protection of high value goods.
The OPTi-100 combines the functionality of a traditional padlock, GPS tracker, wireless alerting and a security seal, plus much more. Unlike many Internet-connected devices, the OPTi-100 was designed with the highest levels of cyber security throughout all of the system’s hardware and software components.

Fuller notes, “The versatility of the padlock form factor allows the OPTi-100’s use in a wide variety of security applications.

Typical applications include protection of high value goods while in transit or in storage such as electronic components and consumer electronics, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, sensitive documents, currency, artwork, defense related equipment and aerospace components and election ballots. While this list represents some common uses, the product is applicable to the protection of any goods that are considered ‘high value’ (whether monetary or otherwise) where the container, trailer, closet, room or building can be secured by a padlock”.

Simple-to-execute solution

OpticalLock provides a high-tech, simple-to-execute solution to the worldwide problem of high value goods storage and cargo tampering. The product is based on proprietary fiber-optic technology and combines with web-based management software to provide secure, real-time mapping and wireless alerting of any anomalous events.
Real-Time Benefits include:
Wireless alerts to designated users upon unauthorized entry, tampering attempts or other anomalous events
Remote tracking and location information worldwide via onboard GPS
Assurance that the OPTi-100 has not been tampered with via the OPTiShield™ technology in conjunction with Field User Mobile App.

Onboard sensors which to warn of conditions dangerous to the lock’s operation such has extremely high temperatures, excessive moisture, violent impact, low battery levels, etc;
Authorization required via the Field User Mobile App to open an OPTi-100 without triggering an alert.
Sophisticated GeoFencing technology, which generates alerts for designated events, such as exiting a specified route, arriving at a designated location, or exceeding the time, set aside for the completion of a trip.

Other benefits

The OpticalLock Management Software stores all data, which can be helpful in managing security and logistics operations. Some examples:
Gaining an understanding of common geographic areas or typical times where attempted theft or tampering occurs
Audit trail reports of by whom and when locks were opened
Reports tracking the frequency of GeoFencing anomalies and other triggered alerts
Maps of current OPTi-100 inventory location and availability for logistics planning purposes.
The Management software includes a powerful ad hoc report writer, which enables users to generate customized reports and present their data in a personalized manner.

Cargo tampering reduction

OpticalShield is a unique fiber optic technology developed and patented by OpticalLock. This technology increases security and reduces tampering in our products because it generates a signature unique to each OPTi-100 padlock, which cannot be recreated. This ensures that it is impossible clone or duplicate the device. In addition, if attempt are made to compromise the shackle of the OPTi-100 the OpticalShield will trigger an alert, which is sent to designated personnel.

“Additionally, OpticalShield technology is broadly applicable in a number of other markets where tamper-detection is critical. OpticalShield is available to select partners via licensing for inclusion in non-competitive products”.

The OpticalLock management software is a cloud-based application delivered as a Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) subscription, requires no software installation, only access via any Internet connected device with a standard browser.

It provides for configuration and monitoring of all lock inventory, granting of permissions to various categories of users of the OpticalLock system, as well as enabling the many features and benefits discussed elsewhere in this Q&A. Examples include real-time tracking, geo-fencing, real-time wireless alerts, notification of any relevant events or anomalies with the OPTi-100 units in service, as well as a report writer for reporting and long term planning purposes.

The OPTi-100 contains a GPS module which sends location data to the Management Software. This allows real-time tracking of the devices from within the mapping functions of the management software, as well as enabling premium management software features such as geo-fencing and real-time alerts.
“As mentioned before, the management software is the monitoring console which allows users to track their devices on maps in real-time as well as generate alerts in real-time for any anomalous events that the lock encounters, including unauthorized attempts at entry”.

The management software also monitors and stores data generated by the lock’s on-board sensors such as temperature, motion, time, battery level, light intrusion.

Replacing traditional padlock

Each OpticalLock has a unique signature that cannot be duplicated. Used in place of a traditional padlock, the OpticalLock is placed on the shipping container or storage room door (as well as anywhere else a padlock can be used) and its unique signature is electronically registered.

While the room is unattended or while the container is in transit, OpticalLock include GPS location functionality as well as real-time quiet alarms with automatic wireless alerting which are activated upon any attempted tampering with the lock.

Upon reaching its destination or when a storage room is accessed, the signature of the container’s OpticalLock is securely verified via our Field User Smartphone App, ensuring that it matches the OpticalLock signature registered in our encrypted, cloud-based database when the shipping container or storage room was originally locked.
The OpticalLock system also features powerful, web-accessible management console software which enables the user to track the location of high value goods on high resolution maps, receive alerts on any tampering attempts or unusual events as well as manage your lock inventory and report on and analyze your usage data.

“Because the OPTi-100 is packaged in the same form factor as a common padlock, it can be utilized anywhere a padlock hasp is available to secure a container, vehicle storage compartment, warehouse cage or room. In addition, the OPTi-100 series includes options such as GSM cell network and WiFi, making in flexible enough to connect via available communications channels, indoor or outdoor”.

Unique security combination

“We came up with the original idea as a way to prevent and deter counterfeit parts and products from entering the US supply chain. This was especially true for parts and products that supplied the US DOD which interfered with effective mission execution, as well as the fact that companies worldwide lose about $653.77 billion per year because of this activity (Havoscope-Global Black Market Information).

“And we believe it is very unique. The OpticalLock OPTi-100 series updates the venerable, widely used common padlock with high tech security features for the 21st century. We believe that the combination of this universal padlock form factor with features such as GPS tracking, real-time alerts, fiber-optic based tamper evidence technology and wireless communications is unique and powerful in securing the supply chain industry.

“We believe it should become standard equipment for any cargo company whose customers are concerned with theft or potential tampering of their valuable cargo.

We believe that the Opticallock products can play a significant role in reducing cargo theft, by providing real-time tracking and alerts during attempted theft but also by providing a powerful deterrent which will make thieves focus on other, less protected shipments.

Tamper detection technology

Traditional mechanical locks can be cut and easily replaced: they can beduplicated, broken, or tampered with in such a way that the internalmsecurity mechanism of the lock is bypassed and the lock become useless.
The OpticalLock approach is different. The OPTi-100 is more than a justa lock. If tampered with in any way, it sends silent wireless alerts to management, providing real-time actionable intelligence to thwart theattempt immediately.

And unlike traditional padlocks, it cannot be duplicated. The OpticalShield™ fiber-optic, tamper-detection technology, requires each unique fiber-opticsignature to be matched to the OPTi-100’s original signature recordedwhen manufactured. No two can ever be identical.

“In addition to robust security and theft prevention, the OpticalLock System includes a cyber-secured, cloud-based tracking and management reporting system. All combine to provide you with absolute confidence in yourstorage and shipping integrity,” concludes Fuller.

Kannur International Airport: Another gateway to ‘God’s own country’

The southern Indian state of Kerala, fondly called ‘God’s Own Country’, has been a major tourist destination, not just for domestic but also international travellers with its never-ending array of coconut palms, sun blanched beaches, enchanting backwaters and affable people.

There is a lot of tourist traffic to Kerala. Not just tourist traffic, the expat living, mostly in the Middle East, travel to and from Kerala often. The airport is looking at the catchment area of Kodagu and Mysuru in Karnataka as well as Kerala’s hilly districts of Wyanad, Kannur and Kasargod. In the absence of a nearby international airport, people of this region have had to travel either to Mangalore, Bangalore or Kochi to catch international flights.
To cater to the air traffic demand, the tiny state of Kerala is getting its fourth International airport at Kannur (previously named Cannanore), thus, becoming the first state to have the most international airports in the country.

The other three international airports are—Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode (Calicut). The first trial flight operations began at the Greenfield airport of Kannur in end-September 2018 when an Air India Express 737-800 flew in from Thiruvananthapuram.

Expressing satisfaction at the first run, the Managing Director of Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL), V. Thulasidas, said this was the first trial as per the guidelines of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “As far as we are concerned, we are ready with all the mandatory tests. Once tests are done, we are getting another aircraft. Once the DGCA gives the license, then it’s the role of the Airports Authority of India (AAI). We expect the tests to be completed by the end of this month.”

Incidentally, the airport, even before the first trial flight, was active when the State was hit by devastating floods. Naval aircraft engaged in rescue and relief operations had used this airport.

Runway fit for big aircraft

The nearly Rs. 2,300 crore ($3 billion) airport is located at Mattanur and is spread over 2,300 acres of land. The airport has parking bays for 14 Code E aircraft (like the Boeing B-777 and Airbus A330) or 20 Code C aircraft and will be able to handle 2,000 passengers at a time.

Kannur Airport is forecast to serve over 1.5 million international passengers annually. The highlight of the Greenfield airport is that it will have a runway of 3,050 metres and after 18 months, its length is to increase to 3,400 metres and eventually touch 4,000 metres to accommodate even Code F aircraft (Airbus A-380). When it hits 4,000 metres it will be as good as airports at Delhi (4,430m), Bengaluru (4,120m) and Hyderabad (4,260m).
The airport has a runway suitable for Code E aircraft, like the Boeing B-777 and Airbus A-330. The integrated 95,000 sq meters terminal building, the eighth largest in India, has been built with state-of-the-art facilities.
The passenger terminal building is on 1.033 million square feet and has 48 check-in counters and 16 each emigration, immigration and customs counters. There are three conveyor baggage belts; 12 escalators and 15 elevators. A 750-metre flyover to the terminal taking passengers to different levels is ready for use.

Tailored for international tourists

The need for longer runway has been due to the anticipated movement of international air traffic. Kerala’s airports have a distinct trend wherein there are more international travellers than domestic traffic.

In fact, Kerala has beaten Delhi and Mumbai in terms of international travellers vis a vis domestic. Take the instance of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport where out of 100 passengers flying the international: domestic ratio was 56:44 and at Cochin International Airport it was 52:48. The reason is well-known: A number of Keralites are working in the Middle East and they travel at least once a year to their native places.
It is reported that 13 percent of Kannur’s population is employed overseas.

However, with the opening of airports in India and increased connectivity between cities, it is expected that there will be increased domestic traffic and experts are already stating that the gap between international: domestic traffic would be narrowed down in the years to come. In Thiruvananthapuram in 2016-17, the growth rate of domestic passengers was 22 per cent while it was only 8 per cent for international passengers, thus indicative of a trend that will get accentuated.

It is in this background that the Kannur International Airport sees a lot of promise. Besides, KIAL expects a sizable population from North Kerala which might use the airport than going to places such as Kozhikode which is about 100 km away or even Mangalore which is about 150 km away.

The advantage of Kannur Airport is that it is a Greenfield Airport with modern amenities. As mentioned, it has a longer runway, bigger parking bay and a bigger terminal which is going to be an attraction to travellers.
The airport is privately owned and the government has just a minority stake, thus giving the airport authorities room to be flexible and quick in decision-making. The KIAL Board has already given approvals to start a cargo complex, flight catering, ground handling and two hotels in the airport premises.

Regional Connectivity Scheme

Mr. Thulsidas, former Chairman of Air India, has stated that the Kannur International Airport will get busy soon as many international airlines and domestic airlines have expressed keen interest of operating from here.
Initially, under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) or called ‘UDAN’ (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik – Common man will fly), Kannur airport will operate to 11 destinations. Under the RCS scheme, domestic airlines will offer cheaper flights.

The RCS has a cap of a maximum fare of Rs. 2,500 (US$35) an hour. The fare for a distance of 151 to 175 km is Rs. 1,420 (US$20); up to 200 km is Rs. 1,500 (US$21) with a ceiling of a maximum of Rs. 3,500 (US$48) for a total distance of 800 km.


The government will compensate the airlines through the viability gap funding (VGF) scheme wherein the funding is by the Central and State Governments and the majority stakeholder of the airport company.
The domestic destinations will be connected by private low cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet who have won RCS bids. The domestic destinations include Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai, Goa, Hubbali, Thiruvananthapuram, Sholapur, Kochi and Hindon (Ghaziabad).

Similarly, international airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Gulf Air, Air Asia, Oman Air, Air Arabia, flydubai, SriLankan Airways, Jet Airways, Air India and Air India Express have expressed interest to operate to and fro Kannur. Air India Express is planning flights to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, Sharjah and Riyadh.
Besides, the expats the number of inbound tourists is on the rise. Kerala has been rated by the Lonely Planet as the third best destination in Asia for holidaymakers to visit this year. In 2017, Kerala had nearly 11 lakh international tourist arrivals and with Kannur airport in place, the number should go up.

Astral Aviation Reaching the unreachable

Africa, Kenya in particular, has long been familiar with the name Astral Aviation. It’s been the region’s reliable air freight company that communities and businesses depend on to safely transport relief aid and cargo for the past 18 years.

Africa’s need to connect to the rest of the world, even its remotest parts, inspired a UK-educated Kenyan-Indian entrepreneur to venture into air freight industry. State-owned freight carriers in Africa just came out in recent years leaving the private sector to handle humanitarian missions and open up opportunities for African entrepreneurs seeking business across the globe.

“My inspiration was derived on the challenge to access the inaccessible, connect the disconnected, and reach the unreachable,” Sanjeev Gadhia, founder and CEO of Astral Aviation told Air Cargo Update in an email interview.
Gadhia, a banker by profession, first set up a logistics company in Kenya at age 25 after earning his degree in London. Seeing the African communities’ need to be connected, he decided to set up Astral Aviation and his gamble paid off.

“Aviation plays an important role in trade and development in Africa, however, the reality is that Africa is fragmented due to its size and number of countries which make up the continent,” explains Gadhia.
“During the past 18 years, we have uplifted the lives of various communities in Africa, whether it is exporting their flowers, vegetables and fish to the markets of Europe, or importing medicines & humanitarian cargoes to communities, who are at life’s edge,” he proudly says.

Great challenges

Serving Africa early on has been very tough for any air freight carrier, including Astral Aviation, due to violence, sectarian and tribal conflicts, lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy & unstable govern-ments.
Gadhia said South Sudan and Somalia were among the countries in Africa extremely difficult to serve in the early years because of violence and security issues.

“We had several challenges coming from the private sector, such as lack of regulations, infrastructure, comp-liance & bureaucracy in some of the regions we operated in,” he said.
“By far the biggest challenges were the political and security risk which we encountered in very difficult regions such as South Sudan and Somalia, when we commenced our scheduled flights over 8 years ago, although the present situation is very safe,” he added.

South Sudan only became an independent country in 2011. It has the third largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa and is also rich with petroleum, iron ore, copper, diamonds, zinc, tungsten, among other minerals and natural resources.

But despite its vast natural resources, it remains one of the world’s most underdeveloped with high illiteracy rates.

After decades of civil unrest, Somalia, on the other hand, is slowly rebuilding itself. It has the largest population of camels in the world actively traded across the region.

Up for expansion

Last year, Astral Aviation handled 40,000 tons of cargo and expects to handle similar volume by end-2018. But the company has bigger plans for the coming years with the help of its new shareholder NAS/Network Airline Services which has offices in over 30 countries around the world.

“Astral Aviation is a fairly small airline in Africa. However, we have some big plans for the region. We uplifted approximately 40,000 tons of cargoes in 2017 and expect a similar tonnage in 2018,” shared Gadhia.

Astral Aviation currently has a team of 60 employees. In addition to its head office in Nairobi, Kenya, it also concurrently hold offices in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Comoros and Mozambique.

“We are expanding our fleet by acquiring B737F and B767F in 2019 with new destinations intra-Africa and also to and from DWC. We are setting up a hub in West Africa in 2019 and in South Africa in 2020 which will enable us to implement our Pan African vision of having three hubs in Africa which will cover 60% of the continent,” shared Gadhia who noted that their biggest market remains the intra-African market.

Additionally, the company is also exploring business opportunities in using commercial drones for cargo which would enable even the remotest parts of the continent access to freight.

“We are working on several projects using commercial drones which will enable us to offer unique and innovative solutions to Africa’s problems,” Astral Aviation’s CEO added.

Though small, Astral Aviation has built a trusted name for itself in the very competitive air cargo industry and Gadhia says every day is a great moment for their team for they know that they are making a difference.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be a part of the fastest growing aviation industry in the world. Our greatest moment is felt every day when we make a difference in the lives of the people we serve and the partners who entrust us with their cargoes,” says Gadhia. “A proud moment is winning the Stat Times ‘African Carrier of the Year Award’ four times in a row at the Air Cargo Africa event.”

Tough yet ripe for growth

Africa remains a tough place for aviation business due to a number of factors but it also has huge potentials for growth.

“Africa is a tough place to run an aviation business due to the dominance of foreign carriers who control 80% of the passenger and 85% of cargo traffic to and from the continent. High cost of business, Lack of Infrastructure, Political Risk, Weak Regulatory Framework and Lack of finance are some of the challenges we have experienced,” explained Gadhia who noted that in terms of aviation, Africa represents only 2% of trade.

Citing the International Aviation Transport Association’s (IATA) research and forecast, Gadhia said “33 countries in Africa will Africa will experience high level of growth, with very encouraging signs of liberali-zation with the adoption of SAATM (Single African Air Transport Market).

SAATM is a flagship project of the African Union seeking to create a single market for the air transport industry in Africa. Once fully enforced, it would mainly liberalize flight frequencies and capacity limits in the continent.

The banker turned aviation entrepreneur

Born in the lakeside town of Western Kenya, Sanjeev Gadhia was educated in Bangalore, India and studied at the University of London for his degree in banking and finance.

Sanjeev’s exposure in the aviation industry began at 17 when he worked for his uncle’s travel agency in London where he specialized in selling package holidays to the US and Canada, inspiring his great interest in traveling.
Upon his return to Kenya, at age 25, he set up his own company dealing with procurement and logistics.
“My interest in aviation was in the glamorous passenger business, however, on my return to Kenya, I felt the need to specialize in air-cargo due to the lack of freighters in East and Horn of Africa, to meet the humanitarian requirements of the UN,” recalls Sanjeev who is a banker by profession.

At 30, Sanjeev branched out to aviation, establishing Astral Aviation which specializes back then in sending aid and relief to the region and eventually diversifying in project cargoes in Tanzania.

“My journey continued to diversify into Western aircraft which we operated in the East African region after which our JV with Network Airline Services/ANA Aviation UK resulted in us operating 2 x B747F’s between Africa and Europe,” the entrepreneur said.

Though small compared to other air carriers in the region, Astral Aviation sustained growth over the past 18 years.
Astral currently operates a fleet of F27 (5 tons), DC9 (15 tons) and B727-200 (24 tons) Freighter within its intra-African network spanning to 50 destinations, in addition to a wet-leased B747-400 Freighter on the Nairobi – London and Liege sector.

For Sanjeev, success is a journey, not a destination. It involves a lot of work, dedication and perseverance.
“The journey of an entrepreneur is based on hard-work, commitment and self-confidence. Patience and perseverance is an important trait for success. In Africa, we have many opportunities and even more challenges, with the temptations of taking short-cuts which often lead to devastating results. There is no short-cut to success which is a journey and not a destination,” Sanjeev shared.

About Astral Aviation

Within its intra-African network, which encompasses 50 destinations, Astral operates a combination of scheduled and adhoc charters along with value-added leasing services. Its interline agreements with over 20 Interline Partners; along with preferential agreements with the leading global and local freight forwarders; and partnerships with over 25 global GSA’s, facilitate the consolidation of cargoes at the freighter-friendly Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Liege Airport.

Astral Aviation has been a recipient of International Award in Excellence in Air Cargo, African Carrier of the Year in 2011, 2013, 2015 & 2017 by Stat Times.

Astral Aviation is a member of :
African Airlines Association (AFRAA)
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA)
Kenya Association of Air Operators
Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)
Kenya National Chamber of Comm-erce & Industry (KNCCI)
Neutral Air Partner (NAP)
IATA ICH (Non-Airline Member)

NARTP finalizes contract for providing management and consulting services

The National Aviation Research and Technology Park has contracted a new partner to facilitate development.

The park announced recently that it has finalized a one-year contract with the New Jersey Innovation Institute, with an option to renew.

NJII, a corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, will provide management and consulting services including advancing FAA aviation-related commercial activity, and provide expertise in defense and Homeland Security aviation issues.

“As we complete the first building of the NARTP, the agreement with NJII will help take us to the next level by providing us with a relationship with a world-class research organization. The NJII team will provide the expertise to develop the NARTP’s mission of becoming a leading center for research, innovation and commercialization of emerging aviation technologies,” said NARTP President and Board Chairman Edward Salmon.

NJII has agreed to leverage its association with government, academia and industry to further research opportunities and foster development of an Aviation Innovation Hub in Atlantic County.

County Executive Dennis Levinson said the county made a significant investment in development of the NARTP because of the clear and compelling need to broaden and diversify the regional economy and because aviation offered significant opportunities.

“The agreement with NJII will assure the success of our efforts,” Levinson said. “We look forward to working with NJII as a partner in both development of the NARTP and our economic development initiatives.”

NJII will develop and strengthen regional relationships between the NARTP, the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center, Atlantic City International Airport and military installations such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, as well as other state and regional economic development organizations such as the Atlantic County Economic Alliance.

“NJII is very pleased to be partnering with Atlantic County and providing management services to the NARTP. Collaboration is an exciting vehicle for a magnified outcome. We expect our partnership to yield great results in the area of economic development for the county as we launch southern Jersey as an innovation hub for aviation,” said Ian Trammell, regional director for NJII.

One of NJII’s short-term goals is to develop a consortium model for the NARTP that will bring together research universities, research institutions, government, military and private industry to promote and facilitate aviation-related research.

NJII will also plan and coordinate Innovation Challenges, global calls to action aimed at accelerating research, development and demonstration in technology areas such as aviation. Other NJII tasks under the contract include facilitating Smart Airport/Smart Infrastructure projects and developing Aviation STEM initiatives with local high schools.

NATS, McLaren Deloitte collaborate for cloud-based aviation technology

UK air traffic service NATS and McLaren Deloitte have announced a collaboration agreement aimed at transforming how operational decisions are made in the aviation industry.

The partners will work together on products that combine the relative expertise of leading organizations, bringing together state-of-the-art analytics and data science with the real-world experience of network and airport capacity management.

During every Formula 1 race, McLaren takes into account millions of possible scenarios to then model the outcome of a range of tactical decisions. Meanwhile, Deloitte is renowned for its experience in using data analytics to deliver large consulting projects globally. These capabilities, combined with NATS’ expertise in managing congested and complex airspace and airports, are now being deployed to help the aviation industry understand and accurately predict the impact of decisions before they are made.

Performance Optimiser is the first product to emerge from the collaboration. Developed by NATS air traffic and airspace capacity management experts with McLaren Deloitte data scientists, Performance Optimiser enables air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to review and model the effect of a huge range of tactical decisions in en route and terminal airspace – such as the use of flow regulations – to maximize available airspace capacity and minimize delays.

The cloud-based system offers instant access to operational data, allowing the user to view a range of factors that may influence air traffic – from the level of flow regulations and weather conditions, through to the occurrence of sporting events – in order to make an informed decision that helps best manage the airspace.

Performance Optimiser can then simulate how different decisions would have changed the outcome for any given day, enabling operational supervisors to not just review performance, but inform future decisions and quickly apply their learning to drive improvement.

Martin Rolfe, CEO at NATS, said, “On the surface, aviation and Formula 1 might seem like an unlikely collaboration, but we are increasingly looking at opportunities to work with people outside of the traditional aviation industry to find new ways to help our customers.

“NATS has a world-class capability in managing busy and complex traffic flows, and we’re already seeing the benefits of combining that expertise with what McLaren Deloitte do so well. I’m excited to see where this will go next.”

Mike Phillips, director, aviation, at McLaren Applied Technologies, commented, “Together McLaren and Deloitte are focusing on the growing needs of airport operations and are investing in a suite of solutions. This new collaboration with NATS enables us to deliver F1 derived simulation and analytics to air traffic management, enabling operational supervisors to make decisions based on data driven insights.

“The potential offered by sensors, simulation and data analytics to the airspace navigation sector is significant, but until now it has been difficult for the industry to bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. This relationship will provide NATS and its customers with data that allows them to improve operational efficiency and unlock the benefits that come with it.”

Other products already in advanced development include additional airline and airport optimization products.

Cranfield University, Barclays to open first Eagle Lab

Barclays and Cranfield University have joined forces to establish the first Eagle Lab dedicated to aviation technology, or AvTech, based on the university’s campus in Bedfordshire.

From December, the co-working and innovation space – one of the first cross-industry collaborations to accelerate the development of AvTech – will open for ambitious entrepreneurs in industry to scale and grow.

Residents will benefit from business advice and mentoring from Barclays experts and access to world-class specialists and facilities at Cranfield University.

The Eagle Lab is the first step in the university’s ambitious aviation, innovation and entrepreneurship project, which will create unique specialist enterprise facilities and programs at Cranfield to support startups and SMEs – particularly those with high-growth potential. Located at the heart of campus, the Lab will be tailored to the aerospace and aviation community, drawing on the University’s global research airport.

Built on a former RAF base, Cranfield is one of only a few universities in the world to own and run its own airport, providing a unique facility that can further help startups and scale-ups as they develop and test their innovations.

The Lab will include over 60 desks laid out over two floors with a combination of private offices, meetings rooms, hot-desking and breakout spaces. The ground floor will be home to a fully-stocked Maker Space, a facility to support rapid prototyping and product development with features like 3D printing and specialized AvTech equipment – all supported by dedicated Eagle Labs staff.

The launch of the Cranfield Eagle Lab follows the creation in April this year of a new business unit at Barclays called Barclays UK (BUK) Ventures.
BUK Ventures has an independent mandate to deliver new customer experiences at pace and scale – ultimately driving growth for communities, business and Barclays – and is responsible for growing the Eagle Lab network.

Jon Corbett, head of SME for Barclays in the South East Midlands and Cambridgeshire said, “New technology is rapidly transforming the aerospace and aviation industry and we want to ensure businesses across the region, large and small, can take advantage of and contribute to this huge opportunity.

“Ultimately, we hope this Lab will help to stimulate and accelerate not just the local economy, but the industry as a whole.”

Professor Tom Stephenson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Cranfield University, added, “We are delighted that Barclays is opening an Eagle Lab on campus, marking the first step of our ambitious aviation, innovation and entrepreneurship project, an intensive support package for aerospace and aviation entrepreneurs.

“The Government has rightly identified the potential of SMEs to develop the industry’s technologies of the future and at Cranfield we are determined to do all we can to support businesses in the region help realize their ambitions.”