Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways is to trial autonomous baggage solutions at Nagoya Airport this week. The carrier has partnered with Toyota Industries Corporation to test an automatic towing tractor.
As airlines look to increase the efficiency of their operations, some are turning to artificial intelligence. ANA isn’t the first airline to trial this technology, and surely won’t be the last. Last year we saw British Airways commence a trial at Heathrow’s Terminal Five with such technology. However, now the technology is getting its chance to shine in Japan at Nagoya Airport.
How does it work?
Autonomous vehicles work by taking cargo from A to B without a human operator, be that bags, humans, or just the vehicle itself. In the context of airports, this could include automated buses, driverless inter-terminal trains, as well as automated baggage carts.
All Nippon Airways is trialing the technology with an autonomous towing prototype. The cart is told where the baggage needs to depart and arrive, and it is up to the cart to determine how to get there.
Of course, the airport environment can be a risky one to test new technology in. With this in mind, the trial at Nagoya will be strictly controlled. For the time being, it will last for just four days. The initial focus of the trial will be to gather safety and performance data. This will allow the airline and Toyota to see whether it is feasible to continue the trial moving forward.
Speaking of the trial, Shinichi Abe, the Executive Vice President of ANA said: “ANA wants to be a leader in the latest technological breakthroughs, and the testing of the autonomous tractor with Toyota industries fits right in with our heritage of innovation”
All Nippon Airways feels that Nagoya will be perfect for the trial, as in 2018’s financial year the airport held more than 100,000 departures. This means that any logistics operations must be top-notch.
Not the only one trialing the technology
All Nippon Airways is not the only airline to be trialing autonomous vehicles at the airport. Last year British Airways was also trialing autonomous baggage movement alongside Air France in Paris. However, the British flag carrier was testing the movement of individual crates, as opposed to a whole baggage truck. British Airways confirmed to Simple Flying that the trial is not currently active in the baggage system at Heathrow’s terminal 5.
Meanwhile, across the English Channel in Frankfurt, autonomous technology is being trialed within the airport terminal. The airport was trialing a guide robot named Your Autonomous Pony Express to help passengers navigate the endless corridors.
However, like All Nippon Airways’ trial, the Frankfurt airport trial also only lasted for five days. Interestingly Your Autonomous Pony Express was able to carry bags up to 30 kg for passengers, still tying it to baggage transport.
What do you think of the trial at Nagoya airport? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.