Aurrigo has developed a new way of transporting luggage around airports. The company was approached by International Airlines Group (IAG) to use its driverless expertise to develop the world’s first autonomous baggage-carrying cart (also called a dolly).

For the trial, which began in March, an existing cart was converted using LiDAR and GPS technology into a self-driving, electric vehicle designed to increase the speed of loading and unloading luggage at airports. Working with British Airways (BA), the adapted cart has been moving around Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport and is now also operating in the baggage handling area.

The autonomous baggage system was designed, developed, and manufactured at Aurrigo’s engineering center in Coventry. The firm says it will now begin talks with airports and airlines about retrofitting existing dollies to make them fully autonomous and to explore production of a new range of super lightweight versions for extended operational performance.

“Until you have seen it first-hand, it’s difficult to explain how big an operation it is moving bags around an airport. In Terminal 5 alone, BA operates around 900 dollies,” explained Richard Fairchild, Operations Director of Aurrigo. He said, “The current method is to have one manually driven tug towing three dollies behind. It can’t move until they are all full, which means there are a lot of empty dollies waiting around.”

Fairchild noted that IAG wanted to find an alternative solution to the current method. He noted, “That’s where we came in, using knowledge gained from our hugely successful Pod Zero passenger carrying vehicle to turn a standard dolly into a self-driving vehicle capable of moving bags from the baggage hall to the aircraft stand. Better still, this means that each dolly can move on its own and doesn’t need to wait for all three to be loaded, providing greater flexibility and speed of loading, not to mention reducing the need to maintain such a huge fleet of dollies and tugs. A massive win-win for airports and airlines.”

Aurrigo and IAG say they are pleased with the initial results and are looking at ways to roll this technology out so that it becomes an integral part of any future airport.