Autonomous vehicle specialist to market driverless product to world’s airports

Aurrigo, the Coventry-based autonomous vehicle specialist, has developed an autonomous dolly to transport luggage around airports.

Since March the company, which also produces driverless pods, has been working with British Airways at Heathrow to use its expertise to develop the world’s first autonomous baggage carrying dolly.

Aurrigo was approached by International Airlines Group (IAG) to use its technology to create a self-driving, electric vehicle that would increase the speed of loading and unloading luggage at airports throughout the world.

“What IAG wanted to do was look at an alternative solution and 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,” said Richard Fairchild, Operations Director of Aurrigo.

“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.”

Under the scheme, existing dollies have been converted using LIDAR and GPS technology and these autonomous dollies were designed, developed and manufactured at Aurrigo’s advanced engineering centre in Coventry.

They have been moving around Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport for the past four months and are now operating in its baggage handling area.

Based on the success of this trial, the firm will now embark on a global marketing programme to talk to the world’s 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,” added Fairchild.

The current method involves one manually driven tug towing three dollies behind, however, it can’t move until the dollies are all full, which means there are a lot of empty dollies waiting around.

Aurrigo and IAG are now looking at ways where they can roll this technology out so that it becomes an integral part of any “future airport”. A successful trial of the technology as part of a live service will confirm that autonomous dollies can be used safely airside to deliver a whole host of cost and efficiency savings.

“Once proven, the autonomous dollies could be suitable for operation in airports across the world, including Birmingham and the East Midlands. While our focus is always on global opportunities, we’d love nothing better than seeing technology – born in the West Midlands – being used at our local airports.”