New Sydney Airport to Take Off with Digital

Greenfield sites present an exciting opportunity to build new technology into major new pieces of infrastructure, and the planners for Sydney’s new airport are grabbing their chance.

Last week, the New South Wales government sponsored an annual investor forum seeking funds for the AUD 5.3 billion project to be built at Badgery's Creek, around 50 kilometers in Sydney's west.

The event was told that the vision was to build the region's "first digital airport" through leveraging advanced technologies such as biometrics, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

Western Sydney Airport is slated for opening in 2026 and will be Australia’s first 24-hour airport, with no curfews.

The high-tech opportunity includes not just the airport itself but the so-called "Aerotropolis" which is being planned for the 10,000 hectares of largely empty land around the airport site.

Another AUD 15 billion is expected to be invested in the Aerotropolis and is forecasted to create around 200,000 new jobs.

Paul O’Sullivan, the chairman of Western Sydney Airport Corporation and a former chief executive of telco Optus, told reporters the vision was “to build in the sensors and the data gathering equipment” from inception, combining this with artificial intelligence to deliver a “predictive planning” capability to the new air hub.

“From the airline point of view, we can optimize the flows through the airport, so we can predict which planes are ready to depart at which time and which ones will have the longest and shortest turnarounds,” O’Sullivan said.

“That allows us to optimize the gate flow and avoid putting aircraft waiting on the apron to come in,” he added.

The greenfield nature of the site was a clear advantage.

“We can streamline the flow of this airport in a way a legacy airport will have to spend a fortune to retrofit,” O’Sullivan said.

"Digital technology will ensure the airport not only offers a better airline and passenger service but that we can get the economics right so that we can make it cost effective for airlines,” he added.

Last year, the incumbent operator Sydney Airport turned down its right to develop the city’s second airport, leaving the Government sector essentially as underwriter to the project.

At last week’s conference, O’Sullivan said the high-tech nature of the new airport would be a “real wake up call” for Sydney’s number one gateway.