The first autopilot was used in an aircraft over 100 years ago, with a demonstration of the system in 1914; and in 2020 Airbus demonstrated a fully automatic take-off capability. But despite this, ground handling has remained a manual affair, so why do we trust computers more at 30,000ft than we do at ground level?
Autopilot is used in commercial aircraft to reduce the strain on pilots and we see a big part of the appeal of autonomous ground handling vehicles being a reduced strain on personnel. We have all seen the labour shortages in the aviation industry, particularly as the world began to open up after lockdowns.
Many of our airport and airline partners have reported shortage of security cleared staff as a factor in capacity constraints, delays and ultimately profitability.
Deploying scarce labour smartly
Using autonomous technology for some jobs is a way of allowing a scarce labour pool to be deployed in essential tasks and removing some of the more routine manual tasks from CONOPS. What if tugs and dollys could both carry ULDs and unload themselves directly onto the aircraft belt loader?
But is it safe?
Safety is a huge priority in aviation, with the airside environment being one of the most closely regulated operating spaces imaginable. But it is precisely this close control of that domain that makes it a practical, near-term target for electric, autonomous vehicles.
The speeds are low, the pool of vehicles is fixed, the roadways are marked, the planes are precisely placed on the stands, there a lot of things that won’t be found in an airport environment, that would be faced on the road.
Test, test and test again
380 tests, that is how many tests we completed before we shipped our vehicles to Changi Airport in Singapore, simulating a huge range of realistic scenarios that autonomous vehicles would face in operation.
Once we had completed those tests we shipped those vehicles to Singapore, where the tests were repeated, in a non-airside location at the airport, to prove again that these tests were all completed.
When the vehicles then moved to the airside domain, we repeated those tests with Changi Airport Group again and we were happy to work with our partner to complete this valuable test programme and prove the capability of our autonomous airside vehicles in the domain they are designed from the ground up to operate in.
The time is now
As we continue our testing programme with Changi Airport Group and other airports around the world, we are demonstrating that the time to accept automation on the ground, as well as in the air is coming much sooner than you might think. Does your GSE fleet have a clear upgrade path to both electrification and autonomy?
Aurrigo signs agreement with CAG to continue developing AVs
Aurrigo International has signed a partnership agreement with Changi Airport Group to continue developing and testing the company's autonomous vehicles. The development of the auto-dolly, auto-dolly tug and its airport simulation software platform auto-sim is funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. The multi-year partnership with CAG provides an opportunity for the further development of Aurrigo's autonomous solutions at Changi Airport to showcase the technology to other airports and stakeholders. This partnership follows on from the agreement with CAG announced on 28 October 2022, for the next phase of development of Aurrigo's auto-dolly. "We have worked closely with the team at Changi for several years and this partnership cements our collaboration to bring the best automated solutions to airlines and airports, enabling them to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability," said David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo. Poh Li San, SVP of Terminal 5 Planning, Changi Airport Group, added: "Similar to major airports throughout the world, recruiting enough ground handling personnel and drivers to support our growth is a challenge. We have been encouraged by Aurrigo's innovative autonomous technologies to help address these issues, and we're excited to partner Aurrigo in joint development and testing of these solutions."