RDU AIRPORT, N.C. — Airline travel has taken a huge hit from the coronavirus shutdown, yet it has always been a vital part of the global and regional economy.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is already helping passengers fly with confidence by increasing its cleaning and disinfecting practices, requiring that masks be worn in the airport, encouraging physical distancing and using touchless technology. Now RDU wants to identify additional ways to make air travel safe and welcoming by tapping into the talents of local universities and research institutes.
RDU is working with Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and RTI International to improve the air travel experience by finding more ways to keep passengers safe and healthy during the parking, ticketing, screening, waiting, shopping, dining and boarding processes.
They’ve launched the Triangle Impact Challenge 2021: FlyRDU with $120,000 in prizes to look for these solutions by tapping into the region’s most innovative minds.
For example, is it possible to make the journey from a person’s car to their seat onboard the aircraft completely touchless? Can passengers be screened and processed without standing in line? What incentives might help passengers behave more safely?
“RDU is committed to protecting the health of everyone who visits the airport and safely welcoming passengers back to air travel,” said Michael J. Landguth, president & 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.”
Participants will be allowed to examine any aspect of the airport’s operation, from cleaning and disinfecting protocols to queuing procedures and building design. The submissions could range from new technologies to proposed health screenings, operational adjustments or any other advancement that could improve the travel experience by limiting the spread of illness.
The FlyRDU Challenge kicks off this month with a broad appeal inviting students, faculty and staff and university affiliated startups at Duke, N.C. Central, N.C. State, UNC and RTI International to consider submitting proposals. The first round of projects are due Nov. 16 and will be judged by a panel of experts before finalists are announced the week of Dec. 21, 2020.
The finalists will pitch their projects during an event on the week of Jan. 18, 2021 and the winners will be announced the following week. Challenge organizers also plan to involve angel investors and startup company expertise in the region to help some of these ideas rapidly achieve marketability.
“Times of crisis like this can inspire great leaps forward in innovation and technology, we’ve seen that before,” said Lawrence Carin, vice president for research at Duke University. “I think it’s a terrific idea to call on this region’s creative and entrepreneurial spirit to try to improve the air travel we all depend on so much.”
“Innovation thrives and accelerates when people who have diverse sets of expertise come together to solve problems that are pressing and complex,” said Judith Cone, vice chancellor for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Launching this challenge is a smart way to coalesce inventive minds around air-travel challenges. This collaboration will engage innovators from universities in our region who bring the ingenuity, scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to make an immediate economic and health impact at RDU and create a model of innovation for the entire industry.”
“NC State University is excited to be a part of this critically important innovation challenge,” said Tom Miller, senior vice provost and executive director of NC State Entrepreneurship. “Recently ranked by the Bush Institute among the top 20 U.S. universities for innovation impact, we are eager to help solve these problems created by the pandemic.”
“This area has world-class expertise in public health, virology, engineering and human factors design,” said James Gibson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, RTI International. “Surely we can apply what we know to the challenges now being faced by the air travel industry and come up with solutions that will help everyone, not just in the Piedmont of NC, but around the world.”
To learn more about the Triangle Impact Challenge 2021: FlyRDU please visit https://bit.ly/FlyRDU, sponsored by Agorize.