Monitoring One of the World‘s Busiest Airports

Case study

Istanbul airport construction monitoring - Leica Geosystems

Author: Özgür Avci (Sistem A.S.), Ahmet Selim Boyali (Sistem A.S.)Zafer Ozturk (iGA) & Megan Hansen

To build the Istanbul International Airport, one of the newest, largest, and busiest in the world, large amounts of earth moving works were required before constructing runways from high quality materials. To ensure these runways could serve safely for many years, it was necessary to monitor ground movements as the end of construction approached. Istanbul Grand Airport Inc. (iGA), responsible for the construction and operation of the airport, selected the Leica Geosystems structural and geotechnical monitoring solution to ensure the airport can operate safely and stakeholders can make critical, informed decisions.

Air transport demand prompts historic building project in Turkey

As an important gateway between Europe, Asia, and Africa for air transportation, Istanbul’s need for higher air traffic capacity has continuously increased in the last decades. When space to accommodate this growth had run out at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, plans were set in motion for the new Istanbul International Airport, which would not only boast higher volume, but also state of the art digital technologies supporting logistics and passenger experiences.

To tackle this project from conception to construction to operation, joint venture group, Cengiz – Mapa – Limak – Kolin – Kalyon, formed iGA. In 2018, just five years after initially breaking ground on the new airport, the first terminal opened, supporting three independent runways, two auxiliary runways, and an overall capacity of 90 million passengers annually. The airport has already garnered accolades from international organisations in the aviation industry, including the Airports Council International Best Digital Transformation in Europe Award in 2020, along with travel publications like Travel and Leisure for positive passenger experiences.

While currently operating at a high transit and freight volumes, iGA continues construction work on subsequent building phases to reach the planned overall passenger capacity of 200 million, with additional runways and terminals and a logistics and cargo centre.

The need for monitoring: seismic activity and continuing construction

However, while progressing towards these final goals, the airport must remain fully operational. During the first phase of the project, the iGA construction team excavated 750 million cubic metres of soil and transferred 1,300,000 cubic metres of dirt each day. While subsequent earthworks will proceed on a smaller scale, building processes have the potential to cause deformations that impact nearby runways, apron taxiway, and tarmacs, and therefore must be closely monitored to ensure safe, continuous operations.

Additionally, since Istanbul is located along the North Anatolian fault zone, there is an increased need to detect effects of possible seismic activity on the airport runways and to provide fast interventions for maintenance and repair.

With several complicated and variable factors, iGA chose Leica Geosystems’ monitoring solution for unobtrusive, continuous monitoring that would increase safety and ensure immediate data delivery while not disrupting flight operations. 

A solution for structural and geodetic airport monitoring

During the construction process, nearly 100 Leica Geosystems instruments were already in use to achieve positioning accuracy, including Leica GNSS smart antennas, GNSS reference stations, total stations, and others. Working with local Leica Geosystem representatives Sistem A.Ş. for instrument installation and training, it was a natural decision to extend the partnership into monitoring.

For the monitoring project, Sistem A.Ş. established a GNSS network around the runways comprised of 6 multi-frequency Leica GR30 GNSS receivers logging observations at 20 Hz. The enabled Velocity and Displacement Autonomous Solution Engine (VADASE) option was crucial to monitoring in a fault zone. Recording data at frequency of 20 Hz provides access to instant information about fast relative displacements in case of earthquakes and monitoring of the GNSS network stability. Leica GNSS Spider QC was used to visualize high frequency data (20 Hz) from VADASE.

Istanbul aiport monitoring - Monitoring efficiently and accurately enhances safety while flights continue


An additional 20 single-frequency GMX910 GNSS receivers were added to create 26 total monitoring points. The GMX910 was selected as a cost-effective instrument to monitor many points with accuracy and quality measurements.

In this solution, GNSS observations are collected and processed by Leica GNSS Spider software. The software automatically calculates baselines between the 26 monitoring points and 3 GR10 GNSS reference stations, which were already in place from prior surveying and construction tasks, at different time intervals. The results are then fed into the Leica GeoMoS Monitor database and visualised on the Leica GeoMoS Now! web platform.

In GeoMoS Now!’s secure platform, different types of graphs are available and, along with PDF reports, can be automatically sent to recipients as scheduled. At the same time, authorised users can access visualisations and reports in GeoMoS Now! whenever necessary on a browser.

 Istanbul Airport Construction - Geodetic and structural monitoring


Monitoring efficiently and accurately enhances safety while flights continue

This setup enables accurate and efficient monitoring while flight operations continue. With support from Sistem A.Ş. available anytime remotely and quickly in the field, problems can be solved with expediency, ensuring disruptions to data acquisition, analysis and communication are always kept to a minimum.

As progress is made towards Istanbul Airport’s final completion date in 2028, iGA can proceed with confidence knowing that state-of-the art monitoring hardware and software keeps them and their stakeholders informed and airport passengers and staff safe.

A structural and geodetic monitoring of Istanbul Airport - Leica Geosystems

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