Innovative Technologies Enhance the Customer Experience at Orlando International Airport’s Newest Terminal

Press Release

Orlando, FL. – Orlando International Airport’s South Terminal Complex (STC) creates an unforgettable travel experience. Through a combination of passenger-centered designs and state-of-the-art technology systems and enhancements, the STC is built to improve travel efficiency, uphold passenger safety, and excite the imagination. The first LEED®v4 airport campus, the complex will make MCO — already a world-class, global gateway to the most-visited destination in the U.S. — also one of the most innovative airports in the nation. The new terminal features dozens of technology systems that both support the building and its functionality, while expediting the passenger process.

Innovation Highlights

  • 100% automated screening lanes in TSA checkpoint.
  • 100% facial recognition for international arrival and departures.
  • A State-of-the-art Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) Tote Baggage Handling System for efficient tracking and expedited luggage collection.
  • Virtual Ramp Control Systems that precisely display aircraft operations on video walls, providing controllers with full, unobstructed visibility of airfield traffic.
  • Large-scale interactive digital media as part of an imaginative visual experience, designed with The Orlando Experience® in mind.
  • One of the first North American airports to install a Passive Optical Network (PON), utilizing fiber-optic technology to create a high-speed, future-proofed, energy-efficient IT system.
  • The first fully integrated, multi-modal airport terminal in the U.S. for rail-air-ground transportation.

“A main goal of our construction of the facility was to develop an enhanced technological infrastructure that meets the demands of today’s traveling public,” said Davin Ruohomaki, Senior Director of Construction & Engineering for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “This winning technology lets us advance our own systems as we improve the customer experience. This terminal elevates Orlando International Airport’s offerings in terms of passenger engagement and processing capabilities.”

“Experience the thrill of Orlando as soon as you arrive at Terminal C,” said Gregory Spence, Project Manager at Burns Engineering. “Our team was honored to bring to life Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s vision for a truly extraordinary passenger experience. The result is definitely not your typical airport terminal. State-of-the-art technologies will ease the travelers’ journey, entertaining from start to finish.”

World-Class Passenger Amenities

Radio Frequency Identification Technology (RFID) Tote Baggage Handling System Arriving at Orlando International Airport’s new South Terminal C will be different from most U.S. airports. The unique, top-level experience will immerse passengers in a Florida-friendly environment from gate to curb, including their luggage rising up to meet them. An innovative baggage handling system is taking shape as components are being installed throughout the facility.

The most noticeable elements of the system are the revolving carousels, where arriving passengers retrieve their checked bags. Unlike other airports, the carousels are located on the same level passengers deplane. The key to transporting baggage from the ground level to the top level is a tote system that has more vertical circulation than a traditional conveyor belt system, which is limited by gravity.

Additional benefits of the tote system include:

  • The bag tag is synced to a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded in the tote, providing 100% tracking of the tote and bag
  • Significant reduction in noise from a traditional system
  • System has capability to reroute totes and baggage around areas closed for maintenance
  • System runs at over 99% up time
  • Baggage jams have been virtually eliminated
  • System is augmented by a robotic-controlled Early Bag Storage facility with capacity for approximately 1,800 bags

Dynamic Signage
More than 1,000 high-definition display monitors will guide travelers throughout their Terminal C journey. From the time a passenger first checks in, until the time they board at the gate, a system of dynamic, network-connected displays will provide a constant stream of relevant, targeted messaging. At the ticket counter, displays will seamlessly adjust between airlines, displaying flight information relevant to that hour’s travelers. As passengers move to the TSA check point, the Queue Management System (QMS) will monitor security lines and display expected waiting times and recent security-clearance updates. Upon reaching the terminal, navigational wayfinding signs will direct travelers to terminal amenities and to their relevant gates, while instantaneously updating with emergency information or unexpected gate changes. Displays can show seasonal information such as arrival airport weather forecasts, construction or traffic updates, and Orlando area promotions.

Wayfinding Beacons
Bluetooth wayfinding beacons work in conjunction with wireless access points to provide highly accurate, location-specific guidance. With fine-tuned location information, passengers can more easily discover amenities and find their way toward shops, restaurants, departure gates, ground transportation, and more. The beacons communicate with users’ smart phones, tracking passenger movements to provide detailed, turn-by-turn digital navigation.

Experiential Media Environment (EME)
The “Orlando Experience” is on full display through a series of immersive and engaging video displays. Designed to inspire while enhancing passenger experiences along the departure and arrival journeys, these interactive displays transport travelers to the discovered and undiscovered treasures of Florida. The EME will feature a wide range of creative media and programmable content, including film, audio, computer graphics, and artificial intelligence generated artwork.

The three elements of the EME are:

  • “The Portal” serves as a three-story gateway in the arrival hall with 32 custom curved screens suspended in a helical frame. Synchronized 12K content plays on both the interior and exterior screens, offering 26 capsules (125 minutes) that tell a visual story of the transformation of the Central Florida region, from natural springs and ranchlands, to the dawn of Disney, the launch into space exploration and a bounty of entertainment opportunities.
  • “Windows on Orlando” offers three side-by-side panoramic screens that stand 33 feet high by 100 feet long. Select Central Florida locations were captured in 20 capsules 79 minutes) using a 12K Super 35 HD Black Magic Camera to create stunning cinematographic imagery with 14 stops of dynamic range. Highlights include a rocket launch sequence filmed from the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center and an afternoon ride under open skies to round up cattle with cowhands at the Deseret Ranch in St. Cloud.
  • The “Moment Vault” in the Airside Hub will engage visitors with imaginative, animated, interactive environments. The 360-degree immersive surround experience offers unprecedented 2mm displays on a 15K digital canvas that places visitors directly within the scenes. Highlights in the 23 capsules (109 minutes) include underwater play in deep blue springs with a school of bioluminescent fish and an excursion to the surface of Mars where red rocks have a life of their own.

Enhanced Airport Facilities

Common-Use Passenger Processing
By owning and operating the passenger processing systems, GOAA ensures airlines have “common use” — or equal access — to all network connections. Interchangeable use of ticket counter displays among airlines allows for dynamic changes between ticketing assignments at the ticketing hall or boarding gates. No matter which airline is assigned to a gate, the computers and displays will work together with a common use workstation to provide all passenger flight and processing information, maximizing efficient use of terminal gates and related facilities.

For international flights, 100-percent facial recognition will be used for international arrival and departures. The common-use self-boarding e-gates use facial-recognition cameras to improve boarding process efficiency while upholding flight security. Similar software is used to help avoid wait times at customs gates.

Terminal Communications and IT
A strong and robust wireless local area network (WLAN) will ensure uninterrupted internet access for passengers and employees alike. Cellphone service will be enhanced through a Cellular Distributed Antenna System (DAS) — providing faster download speeds and better reception. The 600-antenna system will overcome signal degradation often caused by barriers, such as concrete walls or large equipment.

Instead of traditional copper cables, Terminal C provides network connections through a more-robust, future-proofed, and energy-efficient Passive Optical Network (PON) system. Among the first installation in a North American airport, the terminal PON relies upon nearly 10 miles of fiber optic cables placed throughout the terminal to connect computers, printers, phones, and all other network devices. Optical signals can travel faster over longer distances, carrying more information than traditional copper cables, while requiring less cooling equipment — reducing energy use throughout the terminal.

To improve sound quality for the public address (PA) system, a three-dimensional acoustical model simulated sound performance, aiding the choice and location of PA speakers located throughout the terminal. The PA system optimizes sound levels to produce clear and consistent announcements, utilizing real-time feedback to automatically adjust sound levels to overcome terminal noise. State-of-the-art software will integrate across gate visual displays and the Fire Alarm System, producing highly intelligible boarding processes and emergency messages.

Emergency Response Systems
A network of “smart” fire alarm sensors connects plumbing, HVAC, and other building systems to precisely identify fire hazards and to alert first responders where an emergency situation is taking place. An emergency communication system (ECS) works in conjunction with the public address and fire alarm systems to provide audible notifications and exit instructions.

To overcome concerns that emergency responders’ hand-held radios may not have signals strong enough to travel throughout the terminal, Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) will boost radio signal frequencies, ensuring GOAA operation teams and emergency responders can always communicate without disruption.

Visual Surveillance System (VSS)
Visual surveillance across the terminal consists of a network of digital cameras. The VSS provides security, maintenance, and other airport departments with situational awareness — offering airport staff with the option to direct additional support to areas with longest lines, minimizing waiting times. The camera network is used in conjunction with the physical access control system and other systems to track and appropriately respond to security situations.

Innovative Airfield Operations

Visual Docking Guidance System (VDGS)
A VDGS implemented across 22 gates will allow pilots to park aircraft themselves, limiting circumstances where passengers may have to remain on the apron waiting to disembark. Laser-scanning technology captures and tracks aircraft movement, providing the pilot with real-time navigation that indicates positioning guidance, how far they need to travel, and when to stop. The VDGS is also expected to reduce fuel consumption and to lower emissions otherwise involved in ground service operations, while freeing up ground grew to focus on unloading and flight-departure operations.

The VDGS also utilizes a Ramp Information Display System (RIDS) for ground and flight crews, communicating real-time data such as expected time of arrival and departure, weather, and aircraft type, improving the efficiency and safety of boarding and take-off operations.

Virtual Ramp Control (VRC)
Among the first implementations in a large-scale U.S. airport, GOAA’s VRC will use an array of 13 cameras, combined with radar, communications systems, analytics, video walls and a system of 30 multilateration antennas to provide air traffic controllers with an unobstructed view of taxiing planes, airfield systems, and passing ground service equipment. Controllers will monitor live footage from the ramp and gate areas, panning, tilting, and zooming to track aircraft locations. The panoramic view of all planes and operators on the ground will allow controllers’ the ability to guide aircraft as quickly and safely. By integrating information on flight schedules, weather conditions, and ground traffic, the VRC can safely execute ground operations while reduce taxiing time.

Under the common-use arrangement, GOAA manages the terminal’s Airport Operations Center and maintains full responsibility for each gate’s ground control operations. The VRC integrates with the common-use ground control system, creating a flexible, efficient process for multiple airlines to use the same gate. As travel volume grows, GOAA anticipates the VRC will allow for an increase in air traffic without causing aircraft congestion.

With all these systems combined, the Orlando International Airport stands ready to provide not only a safe and secure travel process, but continues to focus on the people using the new terminal, their needs for comfort, and “The Orlando Experience”.