Schiphol Airport starts trials of autonomous baggage tractor


The aim of the trial is to prove the technology’s safety and efficiency as well as how driverless vehicles can be integrated with other traffic at the airport.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has started a trial of an autonomous baggage tractor that will take baggage to the aircraft on the apron. The trial forms part of a new programme launched by Royal Schiphol Group, called Autonomous Airside Operations, in support of its vision to operate “the most sustainable airports in the world” by 2050.

The aim of the trial is to discover whether the technology is safe and efficient and how self-driving vehicles can be integrated with other traffic at the airport. The trial, which will last until the end of February, is being carried out in collaboration with KLM Ground Services and Smart Airport Systems.

The trial will initially start in a defined area in which the baggage process is simulated. In the second phase, the trial will be continued in an operational environment to bring baggage to the aircraft. The self-driving vehicle will be loaded in the baggage area, after which it will navigate to an aircraft stand via a fixed route. During the trials with the baggage tractor, there will be a safety operator in the autonomous vehicle to stop the vehicle if necessary. The self-driving vehicle has been made by ground-handling equipment supplier TLD, with EasyMile supplying the autonomous software.

Rotterdam The Hague and Eindhoven airports will also be testing autonomous baggage tractors this spring, in partnership with Vanderlande.

Autonomous airside operations by 2050

Royal Schiphol Group has shared its vision that by 2050, the daily operations on the apron at the airports will have changed significantly. According to the airport operator, the ground-based airport activities, such as baggage transport, passenger transport and aircraft towing, will be smart and autonomous. The aim is ultimately to replace all airside vehicles with an interconnected fleet of self-driving, emission-free vehicles, in order to guarantee and improve quality in the long-term.

Hassan Charaf, Head of Innovation at Royal Schiphol Group, commented: “Despite the coronavirus crisis, we are continuing to invest in quality and innovation. We have launched the ‘Autonomous Airside Operations’ programme in order to work with airport partners step-by-step towards smart and future-proof ground handling. In this early phase, we are focusing on knowledge development through trials at various airports. This will allow us to combine insights and determine which bottlenecks require particular attention and which steps must be taken in the future as we work towards an autonomous airport. On this basis, we will then determine the concrete follow-up steps.”

Automation will be a leading topic during the upcoming FTE shows this year. At Virtual Expo 2021 (25-26 May), we will be hosting a session on “Advancing Automation & Self-Service Strategies at airports post-COVID-19”, while FTE Global will feature a dedicated Airline & Airport Automation Summit. Sign up for the FTE newsletter for more details.


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Last year the FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group went from an idea to a membership of nearly 400, delivered a proof of concept, built an airport lab network and ran a face-to-face meeting alongside FTE Global in Las Vegas. Following the successful launch of the initiative, FTE is introducing the expanded BIWG for 2022. The working group brings together the most innovative and progressive baggage supply chain companies, airlines and airports from across the industry to provide a unique platform for the development of new techniques, technologies and business models to deliver tangible change in the baggage sector. It is the industry’s best networking platform for those serious about baggage.

The Baggage Innovation Working Group meets every six weeks, and is led by our industry captains including Andrew Price, Head of Baggage Transformation, FTE; Jason Odey Director, Global Baggage Excellence, Air Canada; Kevin Kleist, Emerging Trends Advisor, Southwest Airlines; Darin Juby, Director Baggage Services, Greater Toronto Airports Authority; and Idar Sørgjerd Manager, Baggage Handling Service, Technical Infrastructure & Innovations Avinor, who set the high-level agenda for each BIWG meeting. The next BIWG call will take place on 16 February, 15:00 CET and will look into the trends for the year ahead and conclusions from our latest POC around reclaim optimisation. The POC aims to develop a tool that can be used to automatically allocate baggage reclaim belts based on the arrival patterns of aircraft and their baggage loads.

Members who have already signed up for 2022 also include SITA, Collins Aerospace, Amadeus, Brock Solutions, and Owens Group. Interested in joining? Find out more and contact us for more information on our low-cost membership options.

Visit the FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group page >>   

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