FAA wants college students to envision the future of the ‘smart’ airport

The challenge is also a way for the agency to engage with up and coming talent.
jet plane, airliner

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is calling on the country’s university students to come up with ideas for what airports will look like in the future.

The agency’s “smart airport” challenge holds a goal of “improving the efficiency and effectiveness of smart technology in and around the airport environment” while also “enhancing the overall traveling experience.” The opportunity is advertised on central government citizen-science platform

Following direction from Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, the agency is looking into how technology can help shorten security lines, make check-in more efficient and speed up airplane turn around times. Through all of this, the challenge description states, the FAA wants to keep a focus on creating a better human experience of travel.

All submitted ideas will be judged by a team of FAA subject-matter experts. They’ll assess whether the concept is technically possible and practical for an airport setting, as well as whether it could have the desired impact on the traveling experience.


Student teams have until January 13, 2020, to submit project plans. Three finalist teams will then be invited to demonstrate their concepts during an FAA technical symposium in May 2020. There’s a $25,000 prize for the team that eventually comes out on top.

But as the FAA’s challenge post also reveals, the competition isn’t just about getting new tech into airports. It’s also about allowing the agency to engage with upcoming talent.

“The FAA is using this competition to … drive a passion for aviation in today’s youth of all ages and backgrounds,” the challenge guidelines state.

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