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  • Writer's pictureArpit Shah

Mapping Obstacles on Flight Path at Airport

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Upon drafting the headline for this article, my thoughts were transported to my graduation days in Mumbai more than ten years ago. I used to study at a college located in a suburb - Vile Parle - which incidentally falls in an 'Airport Funnel Zone'.

Regulated by the Ministry of Defence, this zone is 'a strategic hypothetical cone extending outwards and upwards from the two shorter ends of the rectangular runway'. While I didn't know about this term back then, I was aware about the rumored 'influence' of my university board in securing extra FSI (Floor Space Index) for the building which would house its flagship campus. Moreover, it was evident that several of the board's college buildings on the street were some of the tallest in the vicinity, if not the entire suburb.

The stringent limit (FSI capping) to the building elevation in an airport funnel zone, much to the dismay of real estate developers, is in place because taller buildings may pose a hazard to flights during take-off or descent.


Right from entering the airport with the numerous checks involved, instructions and demo from the cabin crew, black box investigation during incidents etc. aviation safety appears to be taken very seriously by one and all. Perhaps, it is the nature of the industry - objects flying at very high speeds and at at a very high elevation pose a risk to both, the passengers within and to the people and assets on ground.

And because everything happens in such a controlled environment, Aviation safety records are well documented and reliable to refer to, as well.

Image Source: ICAO Safety Report 2021 Edition. As the years pass, air travel appearing to get safer...
Image Source: ICAO Safety Report 2021 Edition; While Turbulence is relatively beyond human control, Landing a Flight is supposed to be one of the toughest tasks for a pilot - not surprised that ARC accidents follow in next...

Limited number of accidents / incidents in any particular grouping does not, in any way, indicate that the particular process is less vital in terms of aviation risk involved. On the contrary, it may be reflecting so because the process is paid very close attention to and taken good care of. For example, while Ground Collision Accidents (GCOL) are grouped among the least in the chart above, I can assure you that by the time you've seen the upcoming video in this article, you'll appreciate the technology available at our disposal to mitigate such accidents.


Geographic Information System (GIS) is a very broad concept with numerous applications. Essentially, it is an advanced mapping platform for all kinds of geo-workflows - from documentation and location analytics to map-based visualization and geo-data storage.

Due to GIS' enormous utility to a wide variety of industries, software developers are evolving their offerings: Alongside the core mapping suite, their emphasis is to create industry-specific or need-specific extensions to their software which the relevant industry professionals can procure additionally and benefit from.

I've performed GIS exercises on such extensions before and written about it - Military Operations, Solar Siting, Drone Mapping, Business Location Selection etc.

In this article, we are going to explore the GIS extension specific to Aviation -

Image Source:; ArcGIS Aviation Airports: The specialized extension compatible with ArcGIS Pro for aviation workflows

The Aviation GIS walk-through as captured in the video below revolves around creating our very own Airport Funnel Zone around the runway i.e. an Obstruction Identification Surface or OIS in Aviation parlance. We will use this OIS to see whether existing objects on the ground (towers, buildings, poles etc.) as well as proposed objects (construction cranes besides the runway) pose a threat to flight safety or not.

Specific sections covered in the video are as follows -

1) Loading Data onto the GIS platform

2) Interpreting the Layers in the Map Package

3) Loading Existing Objects and Proposed Objects onto the Map Project

4) Generating an Obstruction Identification Surface

5) Obstacle Analysis

6) 3D Conversion, Rendering, Symbolizing & Exploration

(Much thanks to Esri & its LearnArcGIS platform for developing the content and giving the extension access to me)

Interesting isn't it? Incidents like the one below, which occurred just a couple of days ago (28th March 2022) here in India itself, re-emphasizes the value of such advanced, sector-specific mapping applications.


Intelloc Mapping Services | Mapmyops is engaged in providing Mapping products & services to organizations. These facilitate Operations improvement, planning & monitoring workflows and include but are not limited to Drone Services, Geo-Applications & Imagery Analytics.

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