A Coventry-based manufacturer will trial a fleet of driverless baggage vehicles at a major UK airport in what is believed to be a world first.
Aurrigo will pilot its autonomous, emission-free “dollies” at Heathrow Airport in conjunction with British Airways.
The airline chose the driverless technology maker to help speed up its luggage loading process improving punctuality, and to facilitate curbing its CO2 emission output.
BA currently conducts up to 800 flights a day in and out of Heathrow, transporting around 75,000 bags back and forth between baggage halls and aircraft.
The driverless dollies will carry up to 40 bags each journey and use sophisticated navigation technology to memorise the airfield and calculate the most efficient route to deliver luggage.
The dollies will depart for the aircraft as soon as each one is full, “speeding up the aircraft loading process”.
The trial also forms part of British Airways’ long-term commitment to run an “emissions-free airside operation”.
If successful, the driverless dollies could be in full use by 2021.
A driverless technology specialist
In 2018, Aurrigo showcased its capability in driverless technology in the world’s first ever multi-connected and autonomous vehicle demonstration.
The specialist used, at the time, its Pod Zeros to exhibit an autonomous first/last mile transport solution in Coventry and Milton Keynes. It marked the peak of the UK Autodrive project, which was created with the aim of establishing the UK as a global hub for the development of autonomous vehicle technology.
Commenting on the driverless dollies trial with British Airways, Aurrigo’s CEO, David Keene, said: “This is another fantastic example of British innovation and engineering.
“Our driverless pods are now in operation all around the world and the work with IAG (International Airlines Group), BA and Heathrow Airport shows how similar technology can be used in a completely different industry to deliver significant results.”
Chief operating officer at Heathrow, Chris Garton, said that trialling the new technologies will make its operations “more efficient, safe and sustainable”.
“Significant progress is being made with driverless vehicles and these trials will help us to provide the infrastructure necessary to be at the forefront of this technology,” he added.
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By Rory Butler, Staff Journalist