New Delhi: After a delay of almost 24 months, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s ambitious “Digiyatra” project was launched in at least three airports across India. The project would now facilitate seamless and paperless travel using facial recognition technology and Artificial Intelligence.
The “Digiyatra” project, first set to launch in March 2020, was delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and after successive trials across five airports in India, the project’s “Beta Version” was launched at the Delhi Airport on 15 August to mark the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. Since then, the project has been launched in two other airports, namely Bangalore and Hyderabad airports. The Digiyatra programme is being implemented through the “Digiyatra Foundation” application available on Android and IOS devices where passengers before travelling to the airport will have to register themselves on the mobile application with their Aadhar details, vaccination certificate, their boarding pass and a selfie for facial recognition at the airport check-in.
Following the successful registration, the passenger after arriving at the airport would be guided through the entry points using the facial recognition technology installed at the airport and no physical check by security officials would be required at this point. Following this, the passenger would have to move to the baggage drop facility by airlines. Post the baggage drop, the passenger will have to go through the mandatory security frisking and baggage scan by the security officials at the airport, but the entry gates to the security hold area would be seamless and paperless for passengers registered under the Digiyatra scheme and automatic gates would open for such passengers after successful validation of their identity using the facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence.
Sanjiv Kapoor, CEO of Jet Airways, told The Sunday Guardian that it is fantastic to see India moving towards an advanced and modern adoption of technology in the aviation sector that is at par with the global standards.
“Some airports in the world have started using facial recognition, and it’s fantastic that India is heading in that direction by starting to trial the technology. However, the changes thus far in India have been for domestic travel only. For international, paper boarding passes and stamping are still required. Immigration in most parts of the world still requires interaction with immigration officers and physical passports, which is one of the reasons that has led to significant delays at certain airports abroad,” Kapoor told said. He further added: “Mobile boarding passes have been a revolution and boon in India for passengers, airports, airlines, and all stakeholders involved. Right from entry into airports to security, and further on to boarding the aircraft, one can use the mobile boarding pass—no paper, no stamping anymore for domestic flights. It helps save huge amounts of paper, further helping save hundreds of thousands of trees. It saves time; if there is no luggage, one can go straight to security and to boarding with no paper in the process whatsoever; passengers don’t need to stand in queues to check-in unless they have luggage, and it also makes kiosk check-in obsolete.” The Digiyatra scheme for Delhi has been launched in the Terminal 3 of the Delhi Airport, where one automatic gate has been made available for the passengers registered with the Digiyatra mode of travel. For Hyderabad airport, the GMR has made Gate 3 of the domestic departure terminal of the airport available for the Digiyatra scheme, while even the Bangalore airport is using a single gate for this scheme for now. Almost all airlines in India have also upped their digital infrastructure to facilitate the Digiyatra programme. However, during this first week of the launch of the “Digiyatra” project, passengers who had opted for the same had to face some teething problems as many complained of a mandatory OTP required to register in the application not being delivered to their mobile numbers, while some also complained about confusion over the correct mobile application that needed to be downloaded. NEC technologies received the tender from the Ministry of Civil Aviation for providing the technology, including the facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence technology to facilitate the Digiyatra programme. Sources in the GMR, which manages the Delhi and Hyderabad airport, told this newspaper that some “teething” problems were flagged by passengers during the first few days and that they are being taken care of. GMR has also clarified that the “soft launch” of Digiyatra at airports is a trial version and the full version would be launched in coming months, after airport authorities and the Ministry receive feedback on changes it needs to make at the full-scale launch of the same.