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ANA to test automated technology at Kyushu Saga International Airport

28 September 2020, Tokyo, JAPAN

  • Autonomous towing tractor and robotic bag loader are the latest advanced solutions to be introduced by ANA.
  • Collaboration with Toyota Industries at Saga Airport furthers testing started in 2019.
  • Technological leadership continues as ANA continues to explore innovative new automated solutions.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest and 5-Star airline for eight consecutive years will conduct a test of an innovative autonomous towing tractor and an automated baggage loader at Kyushu Saga International Airport (hereinafter referred as Saga Airport). These tests are the latest solutions in its initiative to create a smarter airport of the future through innovative new convenience-enhancing technologies such as automated buses and autonomous towing prototypes. In addition, this is the second time that ANA has tested an autonomous towing tractor at Saga Airport. The latest round of automated technology tests will occur during September 28 to October 5.

ANA and Toyota Industries worked together to develop the autonomous towing tractor operation as part of an initiative launched by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to incentivize the creation of innovative new aviation technologies. The towing tractor will transport planes that are scheduled for domestic departure during this time. A driver will be present, but will only intervene if deemed necessary. In addition to testing the performance of the towing tractor, ANA will also link the vehicle to its new automated baggage loader to observe how the two devices operate together. By automating baggage and cargo handling operations, ANA is promoting its “Simple & Smart” airport ground support operations, aiming to create an easy and comfortable working environment with less labor and personnel.

In use since March, the robotic baggage loader has helped create a safer, and more efficient environment for everyone at Saga Airport. The loader is cable of independently loading items of up to 30 kilograms, taking roughly 26 seconds to properly stow a bag in its correct location. In recognition of its success ANA will expand its use during the trial period, using it to load baggage received from passengers onto aircraft by connecting to the autonomous towing tractor. ANA will closely monitor how the two devices interact, as it looks to develop additional automated technologies that can be used in airports.

“Previous trials of automated technologies have taught us a great deal about how these advanced solutions can offer enhanced convenience at a modern airport, and we look forward to building on our breakthroughs with these latest tests,” said Masaki Yokai, Senior Vice President of ANA. “Our partners at Toyota Industries, Saga Airport and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism have been instrumental in helping move the project to this stage and we are optimistic about what the results will indicate for the future of autonomous devices. ANA has been a leader in the implementation of new technologies and will continue to look for ways to harness innovation to make airport operations safer, more convenient and more efficient.”

This is the latest in a line of original technologies that ANA has brought to Saga Airport as part of its partnership with Saga prefecture dating back to early 2019. ANA is working with the local government and airport authorities to create one of the world’s smartest, best connected airports. This partnership had previously resulted in the introduction of an automated tug at Saga Airport. As Saga Airport works to implement its “Simple & Smart” philosophy, the use of advanced technologies has greatly streamlined the passenger experience.

ANA and Toyota Industries and their partners will continue to aim for automation and sophistication of logistics in all industries including aviation. We will work to develop and commercialize new technologies.

Source and photo: ANA

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