China Reimagines What a Cargo Airport Looks Like

Image credit: iStockphoto/Fritz Jorgensen

China has opened a state-of-the-art cargo hub airport comprising more than 50,000 sensors beneath the runway to capture aircraft vibration waveforms and monitor runway incursion.

The new Ezhou Huahu Airport in central China’s Hubei province is the first hub of its kind in Asia and the fourth of its kind in the world.

Builders of the project have applied for more than 70 patents and copyrights for new technologies, such as 5G, big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence, for making the new airport safer, greener and smarter.

With the implementation of an intelligent cargo sorting system, work efficiency in the logistics transfer center has been significantly enhanced. With this smart system, the transfer center's planned production capacity stands at 280,000 parcels per hour in the short term, with a goal of reaching 1.16 million pieces per hour in the long run.

As it's a cargo hub airport, freight planes mainly take off and land at night. To save human labor and ensure airport safety and efficiency, airport operators hope that more machines can be deployed to substitute humans for nighttime work.

"We've spent nearly a year testing unmanned vehicles in designated areas on the apron, aiming to build an unmanned apron in the future," said Pan Le, the airport’s IT department director.

SF Express, China's leading logistics service provider, plays a crucial role at the Ezhou airport, similar to how FedEx Express handles the majority of cargo at the Memphis International Airport.

With a 46% stake in Hubei International Logistics, the operator of Ezhou Huahu Airport, SF Express has independently built a freight transport transit center, a cargo sorting center, and an aviation base at the new airport. The logistics player also plans to process the majority of its packages through the new airport in the future.

"As a cargo hub, Ezhou Huahu Airport will help SF Express to form a new comprehensive logistics network," said Pan Le, director of the airport's IT department.

"No matter where the destination is, all SF Airlines cargoes can be transferred and sorted in Ezhou before being flown to other cities in China."

The landlocked city of Ezhou is hundreds of kilometers away from any seaports. But with the new airport, goods from Ezhou can reach anywhere in China overnight and overseas destinations in two days.

Image credit: iStockphoto/Fritz Jorgensen