Air France begins testing autonomous airfield baggage tractor

It has long been said that industrial ports and mining areas are the ones that will first receive autonomous transport to a greater extent. And now we can also add airports to that list. In any case, if the Air France pilot project falls out well.

The French airline has begun testing an autonomous airfield baggage tractor at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. The self-driving baggage tractor, called Autonom Tract AT135, is engaged in the transportation of passengers’ luggage from the sorting point to aircraft for loading.

Today, several companies in the world are developing various robots for work in the airport and airfield zones. For example, earlier this year, a French technology developer Stanley Robotics has unveiled a self-driving outdoor valet parking robot ‘Stan.’

Robotic baggage tractor is designed to improve safety and enhance baggage flow performance.
Robotic baggage tractor is designed to improve safety and enhance baggage flow performance. Credit: Air France

The AT135 Robot Tractor was developed by Charlatte Autonom – a joint project of the French developer of unmanned and electric vehicles, NAVYA, and an airport vehicle manufacturer, Charlatte Manutention. The robot is based on the T135 airfield electric baggage tractor. It is equipped with GPS and inertial navigation, as well as lidar and cameras.

The Autonom Tract AT135 is powered by electricity and has a battery of 32 kWh, a top speed of 24 km/h (15 mph), and it can handle up to 25 tonnes. Inside, it is equipped with powerful autonomous systems, including numerous sensors and cameras, as well as GPS technology that ensures safe and accurate movement.

Besides, the operator can choose whether to operate the tractor autonomously or manually. In the self-driving mode, the destination is selected using a touch screen.

After the baggage arrives at the sorting point, the airport employee places it in special containers connected to the tractor. At the same time, on the special touch screen of the electric car, the worker indicates the destination. After finding the right aircraft and loading luggage, the tractor returns to the sorting point for a new batch of cargo.

The big advantage is that you do not need to have staff running the time-consuming distances between aircraft and baggage delivery/garage. Air France has big plans for the technology.

“The ambition is to further optimize our organization and improve our customers’ travel experiences. This test is the first step to a more widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles at our airports,” said Vincent Euzeby, director of IT and technology development at Air France in a press release.

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