Rotterdam The Hague Airport future-proofing baggage handling with autonomous vehicle technology

Vanderlande’s baggage logistics solution FLEET has completed a three-month readiness test in live conditions, following a joint innovation programme involving Rotterdam The Hague Airport and ground handler Aviapartner. Report by Ross Falconer

In line with its progressive approach, Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTHA) has collaborated with Vanderlande to improve the baggage handling process at the airport, through the use of intelligent automated vehicle technology. In November 2018, Vanderlande’s baggage logistics solution FLEET began a three-month readiness test period in live operations at RTHA, with the joint innovation programme also involving ground handler Aviapartner.

Vanderlande’s baggage logistics solution FLEET has completed a three-month readiness test in live conditions, following a joint innovation programme involving Rotterdam The Hague Airport and ground handler Aviapartner.

During the three-month readiness period, FLEET was continuously tested in an operational environment. This meant Vanderlande could see how handlers interacted with the FLEET system, and how human factors play a role in the use of FLEET. The company also looked at how the operation with FLEET fitted in with the current processes of the handler and airport, how those processes had to be adjusted for FLEET, and how overall operations were improved with FLEET being implemented.

“The agreement and subsequent trial represents an important milestone for Vanderlande, as it proved the reliability of FLEET in a live environment,” says Andrew Manship, Executive Vice President Airports and Member of the Board, Vanderlande. “It also contributed to our main goal, which is to make this solution an essential part of the daily activities at an airport.”

Indeed, FLEET will continue to be a part of the live operations at RTHA in the future.

“We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead,” comments Ron Louwerse, Director, Rotterdam The Hague Airport. “By having FLEET commence live operations, we are taking a major step forward and are confident of realising a number of operational benefits. This will help contribute to RTHA’s sustainability ambitions in terms of energy usage and will also align with our vision to be more than just an airport, but also a hub for innovation and education.”

FLEET is a scalable and flexible solution designed to match airports’ growth needs. It also aims to guarantee operational certainty – if a vehicle fails to operate, others can manoeuvre around it, meaning only one bag is affected.

Meanwhile, sustainability is at the heart of the innovation programme. FLEET is said to use 50% less energy than traditional systems. “In a traditional system, conveyors and sorters remain in operation even with a minimal number of bags,” Esther Kersten, Director Strategy and Sustainability, explains. “With FLEET, a vehicle only moves when a bag must be transported from check-in to the desired output location. Smart software calculates the most efficient routes, reducing the total distance travelled per bag.”

The vehicles store energy inside their batteries, while smart software determines the most optimal charging strategy. This means the energy consumption from the power infrastructure can be optimised. A reduction in peak energy consumption reduces the required power infrastructure of the airport, as well as the infrastructure of the surrounding power grid.

In addition, the energy for the vehicles is generated by solar panels, in order to contribute to an emission-free baggage handling solution for RTHA. Meanwhile, the vehicles are designed to be easily recycled as part of a circular economy.

“From many conversations with airports and thorough analysis of current business cases, we are convinced that the scalability and resilience of FLEET will also bring high value to larger airports. Soon, the first FLEET system in the USA will be operational and there is interest from various other, larger, airports,” Manship concludes.

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