Research Foundation News

March 20, 2023

Ericsson, Saab and Purdue University announce ‘lab to life’ innovative 5G network to make Purdue Airport accessible as a real-life research site for aviation industry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University Airport, in collaboration with industry partners Ericsson and Saab, announced Monday (March 20) the creation of a unique 5G network that will serve as a “lab to life” proving ground for academics, researchers and business to develop commercial solutions that can be replicated to improve operations and security at airports of all sizes. 5G innovation has promised to provide a new generation of capabilities for enterprises. This project aims to bring to life the benefits of private 5G for airports, where new high-performance networks can be tested in real-life scenarios.

In today’s environment, airports install sensors and systems that require hardwired network connections, often requiring physical connection points via trenches for copper lines or fiber-optic cables. Alternatively, airports can consider point-to-point radio frequency links, which are often unreliable, or public cellular connections that come with subscription fees and consumer-oriented performance limitations. The collaboration among Purdue University, Ericsson and Saab at Purdue Airport makes this approach obsolete. With the technology exhibited at Purdue, airports will find they have more flexibility to add or relocate products when the airport goes through construction phases, saving time and resources for operators and consumers.

Ericsson, one of the leading providers of information and communication technology to service providers across the globe, will contribute a private 5G network for the Purdue Research Foundation to operate at the Purdue University Airport (LAF). LAF is Purdue University’s public-use airport, which is located in the southwest portion of the West Lafayette campus. It conducts over 125,000 aircraft operations annually, making it Indiana’s second-busiest airport.

Saab will invest in this project by installing Aerobahn™, a platform that unlocks airport efficiency for airlines and ramp management; installing SAFE Event Management platforms, a security platform used in airport operation centers; and deploying ADS-B sensors to track aircraft. These investments will improve landside operational safety and efficiency, as well as improve airside security.

Purdue will provide use of its airport as well as the lab to life testbed established throughout Discovery Park District at Purdue, a 400-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to the university’s campus.

“Purdue University is the perfect location for this project to innovate airport management,” said Purdue President Mung Chiang. “Purdue has established longstanding partnerships with Ericsson and Saab, two Swedish innovators and global tech leaders. Purdue University Airport is one of the handful of airports operated at a research university in the U.S. And Purdue’s Discovery Park District, next to our airport, has provided a lab to life ecosystem where cutting-edge technologies are deployed before any other locations in the country. No other location is better suited for these exciting 5G innovations and network management solutions that will impact people’s lives around the globe.”

Troy Hege, vice president of innovation and technology for Purdue Research Foundation, which manages Discovery Park District at Purdue, said, “Expanding the lab to life platform to the Purdue Airport creates great opportunities to advance aviation and mobility innovation and education in partnership with industry, faculty and students. The combination of Purdue’s operational airport, research faculty and students with Ericsson’s Private 5G network and Saab’s sensor arrays and operating systems is an innovation and education asset that is unlike anything else that exists today.”

Ericsson Private 5G is a 4G and 5G dual-mode core private network tailored to drive the digital transformation across a broad set of industries and enterprises. Ericsson Private 5G is a high-performance, easy-to-use, cellular connectivity solution built to power innovation for Industry 4.0.

“We are witnessing uptake in global demand for digitalization at airports that requires stable, secure and high-performing wireless networking. Ericsson’s Private 5G network will enable cellular connectivity for the lab to life innovation platform at the Purdue University Airport,” said George Mulhern, head of Ericsson Enterprise Wireless Solutions. “This unique collaboration enables trials and industrialization of 5G applications and use cases that help solve aviation market needs – improving flight safety, enhanced passenger experience, as well as increased efficiencies and cost savings. This is just one more example of how different enterprises can work with 5G networks to develop solutions in real-world environments.”

Adam Baxmeyer, Purdue Airport manager, sees the private 5G installation as a strong fit with the airport’s vision.

“Purdue Airport has proven to be a key location in Indiana to aid commercial and industrial consumers. We have built a sterling reputation through more than 90 years of service,” Baxmeyer said. “Our mission also extends to Purdue students, faculty and staff who hone skills, conduct research and improve upon today’s aviation and transportation technology. This collaboration is a natural fit for Purdue Airport as it enables us to study and better understand technologies that will be fundamental to airports of the future.”

Saab will be the first industry partner to use this dedicated 5G network. Saab, a global defense and security company, opened an advanced manufacturing facility in Discovery Park District at Purdue in 2021. That state-of-the-art facility supports production of the T-7A Red Hawk, which will train the next generation of U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber pilots for decades to come.

“This platform is intended to showcase how state-of-the-art airport systems can work with 5G technology,” said Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S. “By combining airside and landside operations to improve airport efficiency and planning, the platform at Purdue will help us continue that journey. Investing together with Ericsson at Purdue is a no-brainer and a win-win for Indiana. We’re proud to be a part of this innovative 5G project, leveraging our longstanding track record of excellence in air traffic control to deliver a solution that will be replicable across other platforms.”

David Rosenberg, Indiana Economic Development Corp. chief operating officer and chief of staff, said, “The state applauds the thought leadership of Ericsson, Saab and Purdue in establishing this collaboration. This type of impactful project between two global industry leaders and an internationally renowned research university all based here in Indiana is what we had hoped for when the state made 5G development a top priority. It is fulfilling to see this collaboration and its commercial results alongside other 5G projects in Indiana.”

Request more information about potential collaborations on this project online.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

About Purdue Airport

Purdue University Airport opened in November 1930 as the first university-owned airport in the country. Today the airport is part of Purdue’s Administrative Operations organization and is dedicated to delivering safe, reliable and transformative services to support the campus and community. It encompasses 537 acres divided Commercialization into airside and landside facilities. The airside includes two runways, a system of parallel taxiways and an apron area. The landside consists of two passenger terminal buildings, "T" hangars, automobile parking and the connecting road network. Also located at the airport are academic buildings serving Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Aviation and Transportation Technology program.

About Purdue Research Foundation

Purdue Research Foundation supports Purdue University's land-grant mission by helping the university improve the world through its technologies and graduates. Established in 1930, PRF is a private, nonprofit foundation. The foundation helps patent and commercialize Purdue technologies, and builds places to encourage innovation, invention, investment, commercialization, and entrepreneurship. For more information on our strategic partnerships visit

About Ericsson

Ericsson enables communications service providers and enterprises to capture the full value of connectivity. The company’s portfolio spans the following business areas: Networks, Cloud Software and Services, Enterprise Wireless Solutions, Global Communications Platform, and Technologies and New Businesses. It is designed to help our customers go digital, increase efficiency and find new revenue streams. Ericsson’s innovation investments have delivered the benefits of mobility and mobile broadband to billions of people globally. Ericsson stock is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm and on Nasdaq New York.

About Saab

Saab is a leading defense and security company with an enduring mission to help nations keep their people and society safe. Empowered by its 18,000 talented people, Saab constantly pushes the boundaries of technology to create a safer, more sustainable and more equitable world. Saab designs, manufactures and maintains advanced systems in aeronautics, weapons, command and control, sensors and underwater systems. Saab is headquartered in Sweden. It has major operations all over the world and is part of the domestic defense capability of several nations. Saab Inc. is a U.S. based wholly owned subsidiary, delivering advanced technology and systems, supporting the U.S. Armed Forces and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as international and commercial partners. Headquartered in Syracuse, New York, the company has business units and local employees in seven U.S. locations.

About IEDC

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) is charged with growing the State economy, driving economic development, helping businesses launch, grow and locate in the state. Led by Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers (@SecChambersIN) and governed by a 15-member board chaired by Gov. Eric J. Holcomb (@GovHolcomb), the IEDC manages many initiatives, including performance-based tax credits, workforce training grants, innovation and entrepreneurship resources, public infrastructure assistance, and talent attraction and retention efforts. For more information about the IEDC, visit

Writer/Media contact: Steve Martin,

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Source: Troy Hege,

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