In partnership with Charlatte Autonom and Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, Air France is testing an autonomous tractor to transport baggage.

Testing of the AT135 baggage tractor began on 15 November and involved the operation of the vehicle between the baggage sorting area and aircraft.

Charlatte Autonom, a subsidiary of Charlatte Manutention and NAVYA, developed the tractor. Agents from Groupe 3S are supervising the vehicle.

Air France and Toulouse-Blagnac Airport have integrated the flight operations and infrastructure for the testing.

Toulouse-Blagnac Airport executive board chairman Philippe Crébassa said: “This test is a concrete step to designing the Smart Airport: more innovative, connected and more efficient for our customers.

“It was only natural that this world-first took place at Toulouse Airport, the pioneering city of aviation.”

The vehicle features intelligent sensors that can recognise the environment, identify obstacles in all directions and make decisions.

Equipped with Lidar, cameras, GPS, an odometer and autonomous steering software, the vehicle is capable of navigating the airport independently.

During its operations, the vehicle collects the baggage from the sorting area, where an agent loads the containers with bags.

The vehicle then takes the baggage to the pre-programmed destination where the aircraft is present. The agents near the aircraft unload the containers and the vehicle returns to the baggage sorting area.

Air France IT & Tech Innovation head Vincent Euzeby said: “By facilitating the use of an autonomous baggage tractor and perfectly integrating it into its operational processes, Air France’s ambition is to further optimise its operational performance and improve its customers’ travel experience.

“This test is the first step to a more widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles at our airports.”

In July, Franco-Dutch airline holding company Air France-KLM started testing biometric boarding using facial recognition technology at two US airports.