RDU Challenge Looks to Local Researchers to Improve Air Travel

RDU Challenge Looks to Local Researchers to Improve Air Travel

A group of interested parties from the Triangle area wants to make RDU International Airport better. Now they’re looking to local talent to help them do it.

Teams from North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, RTI International, and the airport itself have collaborated to sponsor the Triangle Impact Challenge 2021: FlyRDU contest. The group has sponsored $120,000 in prizes for winners of the challenge.

RDU and Its “Innovation Challenge”

The goal of the Triangle Impact Challenge 2021: FlyRDU is to design and pitch innovations and solutions to RDU International Airport for the future of safe travel.

Officials hope to improve the overall air travel experience by finding more ways to keep passengers safe and healthy. As a result, they are looking at each point in the airport experience. That includes the parking, ticketing, screening, waiting, shopping, dining, and boarding processes.

Four major themes were chosen for the proposals. Specifically, projects should fall under one or more of these themes. In addition, contestants may propose other themes (though they would be subject to approval by a mentor).

The group chose the following themes:

  • Passenger Transit
  • Cleaning and Touchpoint Elimination
  • Airport Operations and Employees
  • Aircraft Safety

Why RDU Wants to Innovate

COVID-19 has had a markedly devastating impact on both international and domestic air travel. Experts expect nearly a 60% reduction in passenger traffic from 2019 to 2020.

Prior to the newest challenge, the airport had already implemented a number of changes. Some of those include enforcing mask requirements, updating cleaning practices and introducing touchless technology. However, officials at RDU say that there is more that they can do. To help complete their objectives, they’re looking to local talent.

“RDU is committed to protecting the health of everyone who visits the airport and safely welcoming passengers back to air travel,” said Michael Landguth, CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority. “This challenge is an opportunity for local students, faculty and employees of the consortium to design and develop innovative solutions that redefine the future of safe travel.”

Details of the Triangle Impact Challenge

The airport will give participants a chance to thoroughly look at every aspect of operations at the airport. During the challenge, teams will get to see everything from building design drawings to disinfecting protocols.

Submissions could be anything that improves the travel experience by limiting the potential for the spread of disease. For example, participants could recommend new technological solutions. However, others may focus on developing new procedures like mandatory health screenings or foot traffic patterns.

The FlyRDU Challenge launched in early September. Officials invited students, faculty, staff, and university-affiliated startups at the aforementioned Triangle-area universities to participate. In addition, researchers at RTI International plan to submit proposals.

Proposals are due Nov. 16. Then, a panel of experts will judge entries and announce finalists on the week of Dec. 21. For more information, check the official challenge webpage and learn more.

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