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Publication numberUS20060277699 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/149,401
Publication dateDec 14, 2006
Filing dateJun 10, 2005
Priority dateJun 10, 2005
Publication number11149401, 149401, US 2006/0277699 A1, US 2006/277699 A1, US 20060277699 A1, US 20060277699A1, US 2006277699 A1, US 2006277699A1, US-A1-20060277699, US-A1-2006277699, US2006/0277699A1, US2006/277699A1, US20060277699 A1, US20060277699A1, US2006277699 A1, US2006277699A1
InventorsNeil Hutton
Original AssigneeDew Engineering And Development Limited
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
System and method for remotely controlling a passenger boarding bridge from an aircraft
US 20060277699 A1
Abstract
A system for aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway along a lateral surface of an aircraft includes a user interface that is located aboard the aircraft. The user interface is for receiving, from a user aboard the aircraft, an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, and for providing data relating to the input signal. The system also includes a first transmitter that is located aboard the aircraft and that is in communication with the user interface. The first transmitter is for receiving the data relating to the input signal and for transmitting a first signal including the data relating to the input signal. A first receiver is provided at a location that is remote from the aircraft for receiving the first signal, and for providing an output signal relating thereto. Also provided is a bridge controller that is in communication with the first receiver for receiving the output signal from the first receiver, and for providing a control signal for performing automatically the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.
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Claims(34)
1. A system for aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising:
a user interface disposed aboard the aircraft for receiving from a user aboard the aircraft an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, and for providing data relating to the input signal;
a first transmitter disposed aboard the aircraft and in communication with the user interface, the first transmitter for receiving the data relating to the input signal and for transmitting a first signal including the data relating to the input signal;
a first receiver disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft for receiving the first signal and for providing an output signal relating thereto; and,
a bridge controller in communication with the first receiver for receiving the output signal from the first receiver and for providing a control signal for performing automatically the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.
2. A system according to claim 1, comprising an imager disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft, the imager for capturing an image of the lateral surface of the aircraft.
3. A system according to claim 2, comprising a second transmitter in communication with the imager for receiving image data relating to the captured image and for transmitting a second signal including the image data.
4. A system according to claim 3, comprising a second receiver disposed aboard the aircraft for receiving the second signal including the image data.
5. A system according to claim 4, comprising a display device disposed aboard the aircraft and in communication with the second receiver, the display device for receiving the image data from the first receiver and for displaying the image data in a human intelligible form to the user aboard the aircraft.
6. A system according to claim 5, comprising a processor for processing the image data prior to display by the display device and for providing supplemental image data for display with the image data.
7. A system according to claim 5, wherein the display device comprises a touch sensitive screen and wherein the user interface comprises at least one of a virtual button and an iconic symbol displayed by the touch sensitive screen.
8. A system according to claim 2, comprising at least a light source for illuminating a portion of the lateral surface of the aircraft that is being imaged by the imager.
9. A system according to claim 1, wherein the user interface comprises controls for controlling the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.
10. A system according to claim 1, wherein the user interface comprises at least one of a biometric information reader and a security token reader.
11. A system according to claim 1, comprising a centralized computer system in communication with the bridge controller for retrievably storing electronic data for use by the bridge controller in establishing communication with an authorized aircraft, for receiving the first signal including the data relating to the input signal only from that authorized aircraft.
12. A system according to claim 11, wherein the centralized computer system includes a key server for providing session keys.
13. A method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising:
receiving from a user aboard the aircraft an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge in a direction toward the doorway;
wirelessly transmitting a first electromagnetic signal including data relating to the input signal;
receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft;
in response to the received first electromagnetic signal, providing an electrical output signal relating to the first electromagnetic signal to a controller of an automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge; and,
under control of the controller, automatically performing the movement of the passenger boarding bridge based upon the electrical output signal.
14. A method according to claim 13, comprising capturing an image of a first portion of the lateral surface using an imager disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft, wherein the image is captured prior to receiving the input signal from the user.
15. A method according to claim 14, wherein the imager is disposed near an aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge, and comprising wirelessly transmitting a second electromagnetic signal including image data relating to the captured image, from a transmitter disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft to a receiver that is disposed aboard the aircraft.
16. A method according to claim 15, comprising displaying in a human intelligible form using a display device disposed aboard the aircraft, the image data relating to the captured image.
17. A method according to claim 16, comprising subsequent to automatically performing the movement of the passenger boarding bridge, capturing a second image of the lateral surface using the imager disposed near the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge.
18. A method according to claim 17, comprising updating the displayed image data based upon the captured second image.
19. A method according to claim 18, comprising repeating the steps of claims 13 through 18 until the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge is aligned to the doorway disposed along the lateral surface of an aircraft.
20. A method according to claim 13, wherein the movement of the passenger boarding bridge in a direction toward the doorway is for pointing the passenger boarding bridge toward the doorway, and wherein the input signal includes a command for initiating an automated alignment process to the doorway subsequent to the movement being performed.
21. A method according to claim 13, wherein the user aboard the aircraft observes a position of the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge from the aircraft and absent the use of an imager.
22. A method according to claim 13, wherein the input signal is provided for remotely controlling the movement of the passenger boarding bridge in real time.
23. A method according to claim 13, wherein the wirelessly transmitted first electromagnetic signal includes a unique identifier for supporting secure communication between the controller and the aircraft during a current alignment operation.
24. A method according to claim 13, comprising prior to receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft, a step of transmitting an electromagnetic signal including data comprising a cryptokey for use in establishing secure communication with the controller of the automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge.
25. A method according to claim 13, comprising prior to receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft, a step of transmitting an electromagnetic signal including data for requesting transmission of a cryptokey from a centralized computer system to the aircraft, the cryptokey for use in establishing secure communication with the controller of the automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge.
26. A method according to claim 13, comprising prior to receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft, a step of transmitting an electromagnetic signal including data for identifying a type of model of the aircraft.
27. A method according to claim 13, comprising prior to receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft, a step of transmitting an electromagnetic signal including data for identifying the aircraft uniquely.
28. A method according to claim 13, comprising prior to receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft, a step of transmitting an electromagnetic signal including data for verifying the aircraft as being authorized to dock with the passenger boarding bridge during a current alignment operation.
29. A method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising:
parking the aircraft within a parking space that is adjacent to a selected passenger boarding bridge of a plurality of passenger boarding bridges;
using a transmitter disposed aboard the aircraft, transmitting a first signal including data for use in establishing communication with only the selected passenger boarding bridge of the plurality of passenger boarding bridges;
receiving the first signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft;
extracting the data from the first signal;
comparing the extracted data to other data that is indicative of the aircraft being authorized to dock at the selected passenger boarding bridge during a current alignment operation; and,
when the comparison is indicative of the aircraft being authorized, enabling a bridge controller of the selected passenger boarding bridge to receive commands transmitted from the aircraft.
30. A method according to claim 29, wherein enabling the bridge controller comprises switching the bridge controller from a first mode of operation in which a command transmitted from a transmitter disposed aboard an aircraft is not accepted to a second mode of operation in which a command transmitted from a transmitter disposed aboard an aircraft is accepted.
31. A method according to claim 29, wherein the extracted data comprises data for identifying a type and sub-type of the aircraft.
32. A method according to claim 29, wherein the extracted data comprises data for identifying the aircraft uniquely.
33. A method according to claim 29, wherein the extracted data comprises a cryptokey for establishing secure communication with the bridge controller of the selected passenger boarding bridge.
34. A method according to claim 29, wherein the extracted data comprises data for requesting transmission of a cryptokey from a centralized computer system to the aircraft, the cryptokey for establishing secure communication with the bridge controller of the selected passenger boarding bridge.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The instant invention relates generally to a system and method for aligning a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway that is disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, and more particularly to a system and method for remotely controlling a passenger boarding bridge from an aircraft.

BACKGROUND

In order to make aircraft passengers comfortable, and in order to transport them between an airport terminal building and an aircraft in such a way that they are protected from weather and other environmental influences, passenger boarding bridges are used which can be telescopically extended and the height of which is adjustable. For instance, an apron drive bridge in present day use includes a plurality of adjustable modules, including: a rotunda, a telescopic tunnel, a bubble section, a cab, and elevating columns with wheel carriage. Manual, semi-automated and fully-automated bridge alignment systems are known for adjusting the position of the passenger boarding bridge relative to an aircraft, for instance to compensate for different sized aircraft and to compensate for imprecise parking of an aircraft at an airport terminal.

Manual and semi-automated bridge alignment systems of the type that are commonly in use today require human bridge operators to be available for performing the bridge alignment process. During the alignment process, the human operator observes the movement of the passenger boarding bridge relative to the aircraft and judges whether or not it is safe to continue the alignment process. If the human operator perceives that a danger is developing, such as for instance a close approach between a portion of the passenger boarding bridge and the aircraft, then the human operator can stop the alignment process. Since the consequences of a collision are serious and potentially costly, a human operator is likely to err on the side of caution to avoid a collision. For this reason, the probability that an accident will occur is low when a human operator is involved. However, the human operator must be trained and will be paid a regular salary, which are costs that must be passed on to the airlines and ultimately to air-travel passengers. In addition, delays may occur if a human bridge operator is not available as soon as the aircraft has arrived at the gate.

Automated bridge alignment systems are desirable since the passenger boarding bridge can begin aligning with the doorway of the aircraft as soon as the aircraft comes to a stop. Delays that are associated with dispatching a human operator to perform the alignment process therefore do not occur. Furthermore, it is possible for an airport/airline to maintain only a relatively small pool of bridge operators on call to perform manual alignment operations in the event that an automated bridge alignment system fails. A reduced staffing level translates into lower training costs and lower salary costs to the airport/airline. Unfortunately, automated bridge alignment systems are susceptible to errors that could cause the passenger boarding bridge to be driven into contact with the aircraft or with ground service equipment or personnel. In general, automated bridge alignment systems perform well under normal operating conditions, but lack the predictive capabilities of a human operator that are necessary for avoiding accidents under unusual operating conditions.

It would be advantageous to provide a system and method that overcomes at least some of the above-mentioned limitations of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with an aspect of the instant invention there is provided a system for aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising: a user interface disposed aboard the aircraft for receiving from a user aboard the aircraft an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, and for providing data relating to the input signal; a first transmitter disposed aboard the aircraft and in communication with the user interface, the first transmitter for receiving the data relating to the input signal and for transmitting a first signal including the data relating to the input signal; a first receiver disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft for receiving the first signal and for providing an output signal relating thereto; and, a bridge controller in communication with the first receiver for receiving the output signal from the first receiver and for providing a control signal for performing automatically the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.

In accordance with another aspect of the instant invention there is provided a method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising receiving from a user aboard the aircraft an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge in a direction toward the doorway; wirelessly transmitting a first electromagnetic signal including data relating to the input signal; receiving the first electromagnetic signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft; in response to the received first electromagnetic signal, providing an electrical output signal relating to the first electromagnetic signal to a controller of an automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge; and, under control of the controller, automatically performing the movement of the passenger boarding bridge based upon the electrical output signal.

In accordance with another aspect of the instant invention there is provided a method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, comprising: parking the aircraft within a parking space that is adjacent to a selected passenger boarding bridge of a plurality of passenger boarding bridges; using a transmitter disposed aboard the aircraft, transmitting a first signal including data for use in establishing communication with only the selected passenger boarding bridge of the plurality of passenger boarding bridges; receiving the first signal at a location that is remote from the aircraft; extracting the data from the first signal; comparing the extracted data to other data that is indicative of the aircraft being authorized to dock at the selected passenger boarding bridge during a current alignment operation; and, when the comparison is indicative of the aircraft being authorized, enabling a bridge controller of the selected passenger boarding bridge to receive commands transmitted from the aircraft.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Exemplary embodiments of the invention will now be described in conjunction with the following drawings, in which similar reference numbers designate similar items:

FIG. 1 is a simplified flow diagram of a method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention;

FIG. 2 is a simplified flow diagram of another method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention;

FIG. 3 is a simplified flow diagram of another method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention;

FIG. 4 is a simplified block diagram of a system according to an embodiment of the instant invention; and,

FIG. 5 is a simplified block diagram of another system according to an embodiment of the instant invention.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The following description is presented to enable a person skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and is provided in the context of a particular application and its requirements. Various modifications to the disclosed embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the spirit and the scope of the invention. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments disclosed, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.

Referring to FIG. 1, shown is a simplified flow diagram of a method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention. At step 100, an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, in a direction toward the doorway, is received from a user aboard the aircraft. Some non-limiting examples of commands are for changing the length of the passenger boarding bridge, for adjusting the height of the aircraft engaging end of the passenger loading bridge, or for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge horizontally, such as for instance by pivoting the bridge about a vertical axis of rotation passing through a rotunda. At step 102, a first signal including data relating to the input signal is wirelessly transmitted. For instance, a transmitter aboard the aircraft is used to transmit the first signal to a receiver aboard the passenger boarding bridge and in communication with a bridge alignment system. At step 104, the first signal is received at a location that is remote from the aircraft and an output signal is provided in dependence thereon. At step 106, the output signal is provided to a controller of an automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge. At step 108, the movement of the passenger boarding bridge is performed automatically based upon the output signal. For instance, the controller of the automated alignment system provides a control signal to a bridge drive mechanism for performing the movement, in dependence upon the output signal. Optionally, the movement is for positioning the passenger boarding bridge to point generally toward the doorway along the lateral surface of the aircraft, and the controller of the automated alignment system subsequently performs the actual alignment to the doorway from this initial point. Further optionally, the user aboard the aircraft provides a plurality of commands relating to a plurality of different movements for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge into alignment with the doorway of the aircraft in a substantially manual fashion.

Referring now to FIG. 2, shown is a simplified flow diagram of another method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention. At step 200, an image is captured of a first portion of the lateral surface of the aircraft, using an imager disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft. At step 202, a first signal including image data relating to the captured image is wirelessly transmitted, from a transmitter disposed at the location that is remote from the aircraft, to a receiver that is disposed aboard the aircraft. At step 204, the image data relating to the captured image is displayed in a human intelligible form to a user aboard the aircraft, using a display device that is disposed aboard the aircraft. At step 206, an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, in a direction toward the doorway, is received from a user aboard the aircraft. Some non-limiting examples of commands are for changing the length of the passenger boarding bridge, for adjusting the height of the aircraft engaging end of the passenger loading bridge, or for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge horizontally, such as for instance by pivoting the bridge about a vertical axis of rotation passing through a rotunda. At step 208, a second signal including data relating to the input signal is wirelessly transmitted. For instance, a transmitter aboard the aircraft is used to transmit the second signal to a receiver aboard the passenger boarding bridge and in communication with a bridge alignment system. At step 210, the second signal is received at a location that is remote from the aircraft and an output signal is provided in dependence thereon. At step 212, the output signal is provided to a controller of an automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge. At step 214, the movement of the passenger boarding bridge is performed automatically based upon the output signal. For instance, the controller of the automated alignment system provides a control signal to a bridge drive mechanism for performing the movement, in dependence upon the output signal. Optionally, the movement is for positioning the passenger boarding bridge to point generally toward the doorway along the lateral surface of the aircraft, and the controller of the automated alignment system subsequently performs the actual alignment to the doorway from this initial point. Further optionally, the user aboard the aircraft provides a plurality of commands relating to a plurality of different movements for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge into alignment with the doorway of the aircraft in a substantially manual fashion.

Referring now to FIG. 3, shown is a simplified flow diagram of another method of aligning an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge to a doorway disposed along a lateral surface of an aircraft, according to an embodiment of the instant invention. At step 300, a user aboard the aircraft observes a position of the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge, from the aircraft and absent the use of an imager. For instance the user aboard the aircraft looks out through one of the cockpit windows or by looks out through another window or an open doorway. At step 302, an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, in a direction toward the doorway, is received from the user aboard the aircraft. Some non-limiting examples of commands are for changing the length of the passenger boarding bridge, for adjusting the height of the aircraft engaging end of the passenger loading bridge, or for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge horizontally, such as for instance by pivoting the bridge about a vertical axis of rotation passing through a rotunda. At step 304, a signal including data relating to the input signal is wirelessly transmitted. For instance, a transmitter aboard the aircraft is used to transmit the signal to a receiver aboard the passenger boarding bridge and in communication with a bridge alignment system. At step 306, the signal is received at a location that is remote from the aircraft and an output signal is provided in dependence thereon. At step 308, the output signal is provided to a controller of an automated alignment system of the passenger boarding bridge. At step 310, the movement of the passenger boarding bridge is performed automatically based upon the output signal. For instance, the controller of the automated alignment system provides a control signal to a bridge drive mechanism for performing the movement, in dependence upon the output signal. Optionally, the movement is for positioning the passenger boarding bridge to point generally toward the doorway along the lateral surface of the aircraft, and the controller of the automated alignment system subsequently performs the actual alignment to the doorway from this initial point. Further optionally, the user aboard the aircraft provides a plurality of commands relating to a plurality of different movements for driving the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge into alignment with the doorway of the aircraft in a substantially manual fashion.

Referring now to FIG. 4, shown is a simplified block diagram of a system according to an embodiment of the instant invention. The system includes components shown generally at 400, which are disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft, and components shown generally at 402, which are disposed aboard the aircraft. By way of one non-limiting example, which is provided for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to in any way limit the scope of the invention, the components 400 are disposed near an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge, and the components 402 are disposed in the cockpit area of an aircraft. The components 402 include a user interface 404 and a transmitter 406. The components 400 include a receiver 408, and a processor 410 such as for instance a processor of an automated bridge controller 412.

Referring still to FIG. 4, during use, a user aboard the aircraft observes a position of the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge, for instance by looking through one of the cockpit windows or by looking out through another window or an open doorway. The user aboard the aircraft, such as for instance the aircraft pilot, uses the user interface 404 disposed aboard the aircraft to provide an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, in a direction toward the doorway of the aircraft. The user interface 404 provides to the transmitter 406 an output signal, including data relating to the command provided by the user aboard the aircraft. The transmitter 406 transmits a signal to the receiver 408, which receives the signal and provides an output signal to the processor 410. In the instant example, the processor 410 is a processor of an automated bridge controller 412. The automated bridge controller 412 then provides a command to a drive mechanism of the passenger boarding bridge for performing the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.

Any suitable combinations of transmitter 406 and receiver 408 may be used, such as for instance a radio-frequency receiver/transmitter pair or an optical receiver/transmitter. When a plurality of passenger boarding bridges, and therefore a plurality of transmitters, is installed at an airport terminal, optionally each radio-frequency transmitter transmits using a different frequency in order to reduce interference and cross-talk. In the case of optical transmitters, any suitable wavelength that is selected from the infrared, visible and ultra-violet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum may be used. Since optical transmitters are highly directional, and accordingly the chances of interference or cross-talk is low, optionally each transmitter uses a different wavelength or a same wavelength.

During use, the user provides the indication by manipulating a joystick or another direction indicating device, and preferably by also depressing a button, by toggling or throwing a switch, by providing a biometric input signal to a biometric information reader or by providing a security token to a token reader. The direction indicating device and/or the buttons or switches optionally are mechanical or electronic or virtual in nature. Of course, virtual buttons require a touch sensitive display screen, a pointing device such as a mouse, a trackball, a track pad or another pointing device, or other similar technology in order to receive an input signal from the user. Optionally, the user provides a biometric sample or provides a security token before the system accepts the indication, as a precaution against unauthorized use.

Referring now to FIG. 5, shown is a simplified block diagram of a system according to an embodiment of the instant invention. The system includes components shown generally at 500, which are disposed at a location that is remote from the aircraft, and components shown generally at 502, which are disposed aboard the aircraft. By way of one non-limiting example, which is provided for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to in any way limit the scope of the invention, the components 500 are disposed near an aircraft-engaging end of a passenger boarding bridge, and the components 502 are disposed in the cockpit area of an aircraft. The components 500 include an imager 504, a processor 506 such as for instance a processor of an automated bridge controller 508, a transmitter 510 and a receiver 512. The components 502 include a receiver 514, a display device 516, a user interface 518 and a transmitter 520. Optionally, at least a light (not shown) is provided for illuminating the lateral surface of the aircraft including the doorway when operating under poor lighting conditions. For instance, a light source such as for instance a bank of lights is provided for illuminating the lateral surface of the aircraft including the doorway during nighttime operation. Further optionally, a plurality of light sources, such as for instance a plurality of light banks, is provided to support operation of the system under a variety of poor lighting conditions. For instance, two or more banks of lights are used simultaneously to illuminate the lateral surface of the aircraft including the doorway when operating in rainy or snowy conditions.

Referring still to FIG. 5, the imager 504 is disposed for capturing an image of a lateral surface of an aircraft including a doorway to which the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge is to be aligned. Optionally, the imager is disposed at the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge, or at some other location such as along a terminal building wall near the passenger boarding bridge. The imager 504 is provided in the form of, for instance, a digital still camera, a digital video camera, etc. Of course, any other imager that is suitable for capturing an image of the lateral surface of an aircraft may be used. During use, the imager 504 provides image data to the transmitter 510, which wirelessly transmits a signal including the image data to the receiver 514 aboard the aircraft. Optionally, the imager 504 also provides image data to the processor 506. An output signal is provided from the receiver 514 to the display device 516. The display device displays the image data in a human intelligible form to the user aboard the aircraft. The user aboard the aircraft, such as for instance the aircraft pilot, uses the user interface 518 disposed aboard the aircraft to provide an input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge, in a direction toward the doorway of the aircraft. The user interface 518 provides to the transmitter 520 an output signal, including data relating to the command provided by the user aboard the aircraft. The transmitter 520 transmits a signal to the receiver 512, which receives the signal and provides an output signal to the processor 506. In the instant example, the processor 506 is a processor of an automated bridge controller 508. The automated bridge controller 508 then provides a command to a drive mechanism of the passenger boarding bridge for performing the movement of the passenger boarding bridge.

Any suitable combinations of transmitters 510/520 and receivers 512/514 may be used, such as for instance a radio-frequency receiver/transmitter pair or an optical receiver/transmitter. When a plurality of passenger boarding bridges, and therefore a plurality of transmitters, is installed at an airport terminal, optionally each radio-frequency transmitter transmits using a different frequency in order to reduce interference and cross-talk. In the case of optical transmitters, any suitable wavelength that is selected from the infrared, visible and ultra-violet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum may be used. Since optical transmitters are highly directional, and accordingly the chances of interference or cross-talk is low, optionally each transmitter uses a different wavelength or a same wavelength.

During use, the user provides the input signal relating to a command for controlling a movement of the passenger boarding bridge by manipulating a joystick or another direction indicating device, and preferably by also depressing a button, by toggling or throwing a switch, by providing a biometric input signal to a biometric information reader or by providing a security token to a token reader. The direction indicating device and/or the buttons or switches optionally are mechanical or electronic or virtual in nature. Of course, virtual buttons require a touch sensitive display screen, a pointing device such as a mouse, a trackball, a track pad or another pointing device, or other similar technology in order to receive an input signal from the user. Optionally, the user provides a biometric sample or provides a security token before the system accepts the input signal, as a precaution against unauthorized use.

It is an advantage of at least some embodiments of the instant invention that a user aboard the aircraft performs manual control of at least some part of the passenger boarding bridge alignment operation. Since the user aboard the aircraft is present as soon as the aircraft has come to a stop, delays associated with waiting for a bridge operator to be dispatched and to arrive at the passenger boarding bridge are eliminated. This is particularly advantageous in circumstances where environmental or other factors make it impossible to rely completely on automated bridge alignment systems. For instance, under conditions of very poor weather. In such cases, the number of passenger boarding bridges needing to be aligned is likely to be much larger than the pool of human operators on-call at an airport. By transferring responsibility for manual bridge control to a user aboard the aircraft, it is known that at least one operator will always be available at every passenger boarding bridge, as soon as the aircraft has come to a stop.

According to at least some of the embodiments of the instant invention, commands are exchanged between the aircraft and the passenger boarding bridge for controlling movement of the aircraft-engaging end of the passenger boarding bridge towards the doorway of the aircraft. In order to reduce the risk of an accident occurring, additional safety features preferably are provided to ensure that each bridge responds only to those commands that are intended for it. For instance, the transmitter that is disposed aboard the aircraft transmits a signal to identify the aircraft to the bridge controller. This preliminary “handshake” or identifier signal is sent before any commands for moving the passenger boarding bridge are accepted and performed by the bridge controller. The signal optionally identifies the aircraft uniquely, or at least identifies the specific type and sub-type of the aircraft. Preferably, the bridge controller provides the signal from the aircraft as well as a bridge identifier signal to a centralized computer system for verification that the aircraft is actually scheduled to dock at that particular bridge, and that the bridge controller is authorized to respond to commands transmitted from that aircraft. Optionally, the pilot is provided with a bridge ID corresponding to the passenger boarding bridge that is scheduled to service the aircraft. The bridge ID is compared to a bridge ID as provided by the bridge controller so as to confirm that the aircraft is in communication with the correct passenger boarding bridge.

Optionally, communication between the aircraft and the passenger boarding bridge are encrypted using a unique “session key.” For instance, the aircraft is optionally provided in advance with a session key, or transmits a signal to a centralized computer system, which includes a key server, to receive a session key for use in communicating with passenger boarding bridge, so as to prevent wrong bridge from being moved. The centralized computer system contains information relating to which passenger boarding bridge an aircraft has been assigned for a particular docking operation. By providing a session key that is unique for that passenger boarding bridge for that particular docking operation, only that passenger boarding bridge will respond to signals transmitted from the aircraft using the provided session key. Optionally, each bridge is assigned a unique cryptokey that is transmitted to an aircraft upon arrival. The bridge controller then responds only to signals transmitted from the aircraft using the unique cryptokey for that bridge.

Numerous other embodiments may be envisaged without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7392561Jun 22, 2005Jul 1, 2008Dew Engineering And Development LimitedAutomated passenger boarding bridge alignment system and method with manual confirmation of aircraft doorway position
US7458122Jun 22, 2005Dec 2, 2008Dew Engineering And Development LimitedAutomated passenger boarding bridge alignment system and method with manual identification of aircraft doorway position
US7603736Mar 20, 2006Oct 20, 2009Dew Engineering And Development UlcMethod for aligning a plurality of passenger boarding bridges
US7603737Sep 11, 2006Oct 20, 2009Dew Engineering And Development UlcPassenger boarding bridge alignment system and method therefor
US7669269Sep 13, 2006Mar 2, 2010Dew Engineering And Development UlcSystem and method for wireless communication between an aircraft and a passenger boarding bridge
Classifications
U.S. Classification14/71.5
International ClassificationE01D1/00
Cooperative ClassificationB64F1/305
European ClassificationB64F1/305
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 10, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: DEW ENGINEERING AND DEVELOPMENT LIMITED, CANADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:HUTTON, NEIL;REEL/FRAME:016682/0310
Effective date: 20050609