British Airways currently operates up to 800 flights a day to and from Heathrow, transporting around 75,000 bags back and forth between its baggage halls and aircraft.
Now, in what is believed to be a world first, the airline, in conjunction with Heathrow Airport and autonomous vehicle specialist, Aurrigo, is trialling driverless baggage vehicles, which are known as dollies.
Carrying up to 40 bags in one journey, the driverless dollies use the latest navigating technology to memorise the airfield to determine the shortest route to transport luggage. Unlike the current vehicles, the new autonomous dollies will depart for the aircraft as soon as each one is full, speeding up the aircraft loading process. In addition to improving operational efficiency, the trial also forms part of the airline’s wider environmental commitment to run an emissions-free airside operation.
British Airways’ Director of Airports, Raghbir Pattar, said: “We are always looking at ways to improve efficiency and modernise our operation to ensure that we are delivering bags to and from our aircraft on time and without delay.”
David Keene, Chief Executive Officer of Aurrigo, added: “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, BA and Heathrow Airport shows how similar technology can be used in a completely different industry to deliver significant results.
Chris Garton, Chief Operating Officer at Heathrow Airport said: “We’re delighted to trial new technologies that will make our airport 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.”
If successful, the dollies could transport customers’ baggage to and from the aircraft by 2021.
British Airways already operates emissions-free remote-controlled Mototok vehicles at Heathrow to pushback all of its short-haul flights and is trialling the devices for long-haul flights. These vehicles are powered by Heathrow’s 100% renewable electricity supply saving 7,400 tonnes of C02 every year compared to traditional baggage tugs. The airline also operates environmentally-friendly electric taxis to transport premium transiting customers between their arriving and departing flights.