At some of the world’s busiest airports, congestion can be a real problem. With too many aircraft on the apron and taxiway, the result is flight delays and higher fuel consumption. For short-haul aircraft, fuel burn during the ground phase can account for up to 4% of the fuel used in the entire journey.

Operational efficiencies to solve issues like congestion, both on the ground and in the air, are a major focus for airports and airlines alike. However, technology companies can also play a role. Honeywell Aerospace has developed an innovative way to boost airport traffic efficiency, replacing the traditional method of pilots finding their way to the gate or runway using paper-based maps and directions from air traffic controllers. Often, the amount of ground-based traffic needing to be managed from the control towers leads to delays, especially in poor visibility conditions.

Honeywell’s ‘follow the greens’ system removes the obstacles that get in the way of the smooth running of airport traffic by using a series of lights on the tarmac. The system assesses all aircraft traffic on the ground and identifies the optimum route for pilots to take. Instead of fussing about with maps and waiting for guidance from the control tower, pilots can simply follow a set of green lights, which will lead them to their destination.

In March 2016, the system was put in place at Dubai International Airport, the sixth busiest airport in the world for both passengers and cargo. The traffic at Dubai is forecast only to increase, so by following the greens, the Middle Eastern hub will be able to manage its already huge aircraft numbers and be prepared for the future, cutting delays for passengers and fuel use for airlines.