One of our biggest fears when flying is the fate of our luggage. Will it make it to our destination? Will it arrive a few days late or end up in the abyss never to be seen again? One airport is looking to improve baggage handling and efficiency by way of robotics.
Meet FLEET, the world’s first robot baggage handlers. They’ve recently arrived in America and will be testing at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Looking like a cross between a star wars droid and a dolly from Home Depot, the little robots will autonomously bring your luggage straight to the baggage belt.
FLEET Robot Baggage System Will Take Luggage to Belt
The process is pretty simple. Passengers put their luggage onto a self-bag drop. They then enter flight information using an interactive touch screen. If everything checks out, the luggage is released onto the little four-wheel robot who will deliver it to the proper baggage belt.
Each vehicle carries a single bag while using GPS to determine the most optimal route through the airport. Onboard sensors and cameras allow the FLEET robot to avoid anything that may get in the way. The vehicles and luggage can be tracked in real-time to make sure the bags get to where they need to be.
“This particular application is both exciting and challenging for us, because FLEET will be working in a passenger area,” said Andrew Manship, Vanderlande’s Executive Vice President Airports in a press release. “Vanderlande believes FLEET aligns with the airport’s vision, because they have a strong commitment to improving the passenger experience, as well as showcasing the latest innovations.”
FLEET Previously Tested in Hague Airport
FLEET is from Netherlands based automation company Vanderlande. The robotic baggage system debuted in 2018 at The Hague Airport in Rotterdam. According to the company, FLEET was able to handle about 450 bags per hour.
As far as impact goes, FLEET is environmentally friendlier than other baggage systems. It consumes up to 50% less energy compared to traditional setups. The vehicles can also be recycled when they reach the end of their life.
The robotic baggage handlers are located in Terminal D and are being tested with transfer passengers who arrive from international flights and connect through DFW. During testing, a human employee will be nearby in case a traveler has issues using the robotic system.
DFW is World’s 4th Largest Airport
No word on how long the pilot program will last or if it will eventually become a full-time option. Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth largest airport in the world and a major hub. If FLEET improves efficiency here, it won’t be long before the robotic baggage system starts appearing in other airports around the world.
“As we go through the pilot program, DFW will evaluate this new technology and assess potential applications of robots and autonomous vehicles at different points within the airport,” said Khaled Naja, DFW Airport’s executive vice president of infrastructure and development.