Airport management company Schiphol has commenced the testing of an autonomous baggage tractor at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.

The testing is being carried out in collaboration with Smart Airport Systems and KLM Ground Services.

After successful testing, the self-driving baggage tractor will be used to carry the baggage to the aircraft on the apron.

The trial, which will last until the end of the month, will assess the safety and efficiency of the technology.

It will also help in determining whether self-driving vehicles can be integrated with other traffic at the airport. The trial will begin in a designated zone where the baggage process will be imitated.

During the second phase, the trial will be continued in an operational setting to carry baggage to the airplane.

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After being loaded in the baggage area, the self-driving vehicle will steer towards an aircraft stand on a fixed route.

A safety operator will be present throughout the trials to stop the vehicle when needed.

The vehicle has been designed by ground-handling equipment supplier TLD, with EasyMile providing the autonomous software.

Schiphol stated that Rotterdam, The Hague Airport and Eindhoven Airport will also be testing the new vehicle in spring.

These airports will be testing this technology in association with logistics automation company Vanderlande.

Royal Schiphol Group is aiming to replace all vehicles on airside with a connected fleet of autonomous, emission-free vehicles for ground-based airport activities.

Royal Schiphol Group innovation head Hassan Charaf said: “Despite the coronavirus crisis, we are continuing to invest in quality and innovation. We have launched the ‘Autonomous Airside Operations’ programme in order to work with airport partners step-by-step towards smart and future-proof ground handling. In this early phase, we are focusing on knowledge development through trials at various airports.

“This will allow us to combine insights and determine which bottlenecks require particular attention and which steps must be taken in the future as we work towards an autonomous airport. On this basis, we will then determine the concrete follow-up steps.”

Royal Schiphol Group baggage head Dennis van Kleef said: “Jobs remain, even with autonomous technology. In future, it can be used for work for which it is difficult to find employees, or for work that is physically demanding. The human factor will remain crucial, for example in managing work and maintaining an overview. Employees will also be able to focus more on service.”