Better Asset Monitoring for Dublin Airport

8 min video  /  5 minute read

Project Scope

  • Tags: 19,154
  • Screens: 78 with 15 templates
  • Clients: Between 3 and 8 at any one time
  • Alarms: Approx. 2,500
  • Devices: 52 (Beckhoff PLCs, Modbus TCP Gateways, and direct connections to aircraft Ground Power Supply Units)
  • Architecture: Standard with Server Redundancy
  • Database: Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise
  • Historical data logged: More than 500,000 records from 1,216 monitored points

Project Overview

The Dublin Airport Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) system gathers aircraft ground power usage data. It compiles, stores, and sends the resulting records to the Dublin AOS system (a part of the Airport billing system). This data is collated with the stand allocations and used to generate billing for airlines' ground power usage. 

The FEGP system also provides status monitoring, alarming, condition monitoring and reporting for assets located on the aircraft stands. This includes the FEGPs, passenger loading bridges, sump pumps, and several PLCs located on the associated piers.

Dublin Airport was investigating consolidated ways to automate aircraft ground power usage and billing. Terminal 1 (T1) did this manually whereas Terminal 2 (T2) had a proprietary BMS-based power management system using legacy OPC. Several vendors proposed closed source solutions, but costs and the closed nature of these solutions limited the options.

Effective Automation had already implemented several very successful Ignition-based condition monitoring systems around Dublin Airport and the airport team was aware of the flexibility and power provided by the Ignition platform. Effective Automation was invited to carry out a small-scale trial. 

This involved connecting to one FEGP and collecting power meter readings using a Modbus interface. It also involved writing Python scripts to monitor aircraft connections and disconnections, calculating the consumption, and storing these details to a data table. This data was then formatted as required by the AOS system. The trial was a resounding success and Effective Automation was asked to quote on building a fully automated system for Terminal 1. 


Key requirements for the system included:

  • High degree of resilience to failure
  • Data integrity
  • System usage and status monitoring
  • Power consumption reporting
  • Flexibility to expand with the airport's operational needs
  • The ability to monitor other assets located on the piers


Key Challenges

Effective Automation encountered several challenges during the development, but the flexibility provided by Ignition meant nothing was impossible. Some of the key challenges were:

  • The Dublin Airport Network security insisted on the use of SFTP to send power records over the network; however, Ignition does not have built-in tools for this. Effective Automation considered developing an add-on but finally simply used a script to store the files to a folder on the host and then used a CRON to transfer the files in this folder to the AOS server using WinSCP.
  • The initial system was for T1 and required flexibility in project approach and design. Effective Automation made extensive use of UDTs and templates to build in a high degree of flexibility. The company also adopted a Kanban-based agile project management philosophy. 
  • The piers at Dublin Airport did not have ethernet, so the airport team had to install gateways to convert to RS485, run cabling down the pier and then another gateway to convert back to TCP which was then monitored with ModbusTCP.
  • To protect system availability, Effective Automation opted for a redundant server pair connected to a database on the Dublin MSSQL Server Enterprise Cluster. This cluster is backed up and has redundancy managed by a dedicated database team. Each part of the store, convert, and send process for the data records was also logged to an audit file local to Ignition.
  • To guarantee the data integrity and availability, Effective Automation recorded all steps in the data storage and transmittal process so that in any given circumstance, it could audit the system and recover any missing data should the need arise.



The project was delivered on time and at the agreed price. Effective Automation implemented an agile project approach during the design and development and shared its Kanban project board with key client personnel. The flexibility of Ignition made this very easy and when the system went online, the airport had a system that everyone was happy with.

The customer acceptance, commissioning, and go-live phases only took a couple of days. The use of Kanban was later integrated into the Ignition application so that the site team can raise an issue within the FEGP Ignition system, which sends an alert to the developers and adds the issue to a dedicated Kanban board at the same time.

The success of implementing the system in Terminal 1 led to a second order to migrate the existing Terminal 2 FEGPs, in addition to adding boarding bridges into the system. Due to the flexible design — and even though the FEGPs used in T2 had different data structures than T1 — Effective Automation only had to develop a single extra UDT. 

Although the project’s initial goal was to gather and report aircraft power usage, Effective Automation realized early on the advantages of monitoring other assets located on the piers. Boarding bridges are a perpetual problem in virtually every airport around the world. As Dublin Asset Care had been looking at a remote monitoring system to monitor the bridges from a central location, it was decided to implement this functionality into the FEGP project. Due to health and safety aspects, remote control is strictly forbidden; however, giving an engineer the tools to be able to quickly monitor the bridge status from any location allows Dublin Airport to quickly give instructions to the bridge operator on how to recover a fault. 

Dublin Airport and Effective Automation have found that the flexibility and power provided by the modular design of the Ignition platform is indispensable, allowing them to build systems that are extensible and easily adapted as operational needs change. Effective Automation has found that, for a small system integrator, this is a key advantage of the Ignition platform. The company can build complex, flexible, cost-effective systems for any application using the agile development processes and have, with customer collaboration, achieved outstanding results at Dublin Airport. 

Project Information

Created By:   Effective Automation

Effective Automation is a small owner-managed business providing SCADA and PLC-based control system integration and support to a large variety of industries. Recent years have largely been focused on SCADA design and integration as well as providing support for legacy PLC systems within the aerospace industry during major system upgrades.


Project For:   Dublin Airport Authority

Dublin Airport is a major international airport serving Dublin and surrounding areas. The airport carried 33 million passengers in 2019 and is the 12th busiest airport in Europe. Dublin Airport is strongly committed to using technology and innovation to provide enhanced efficiencies across all sectors of its business.

Posted on October 1, 2020