Frankfurt Airport has launched a month-long trial to see if an autonomous baggage and cargo tractor can be introduced at the airport.
The technology will operate on a test route of 8km within a secure area at the airport. This trial is trying to prove how much the automated technology can handle, and under what conditions.
“Autonomous vehicles are a very promising future option for us as an airport operator. We’ve already trialed self-driving vehicles in some areas. But deployment on the apron on such a long route is a completely new dimension.”
“Safety will be the top priority during the trial. The fact that we are tackling these kinds of innovative projects, despite the challenging operating conditions, once again emphasizes our role as a future-focused company” said Eric Agthe, a project manager for Process and Product Development at Fraport.
The baggage and cargo tractor will travel along its assigned 8-kilometre safe route at a speed of 13 km per hour and has the facilities to tow either three baggage trailers or two larger cargo trailers. A trained and certified safety driver will be on hand to safely intervene if required.
Frankfurt Airport Improving sustainability whilst boosting efficiency
Regular readers of AviationSource News will know that airlines have set themselves ambitious sustainability goals over the next ten to fifteen years. By purchasing the most fuel-efficient aircraft, and trialing fuel blends to include Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and it seems that airports are not far behind.
If proved to be a success, this technology would contribute to a large carbon emissions reduction from the industry. A mass rollout of this type of technology at airports around the world would allow them to collectively reduce the presence of fossil fuel-powered cargo tractors and tugs on their aprons.
Trialing this technology at Frankfurt Airport will not only reduce the number of employees the airport requires, but enable the redeployment of them in other areas. But will shape how all airports will ultimately manage their cargo and baggage handling operations as technology advances.
Automating ground handling tasks will enable more accurate forecasting for carousel delivery, a plus from the airport customers’ perspective.
Many travelers will be all too familiar with the issues airports have suffered whilst trying to operate as air travel has got back to pre-pandemic levels whilst not having a full workforce.
Stein: “A project of high importance”
On what this tech could do to the airport from a resource perspective, Dennis Stein, Vice President of Divion Development, Logistics and IT said: “For Fraport, this project is of high importance because of its potential to facilitate more efficient deployment of staff in the future.”
“Due to the size of the airport apron, our employees often have to cover long distances. If parts of these routes could be operated using autonomous vehicles, this would give the Ground Services teams more flexibility to handle flights even more efficiently.”
In February Aviation Source News covered how Changi Airport in Singapore is due to continue its trial of autonomous baggage handling technology.
The UK-based electric tech company, Aurrigo has been working in partnership with Changi for several years, and in February they decided to extend their agreement. You can read the article here.