Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport is conducting trials of autonomous baggage and cargo tractor at the airport.

The trials are carried out to verify if the autonomous vehicle can be used to support regular baggage and cargo operations on the apron.

Fraport process and product development project manager Eric Agthe said: “Autonomous vehicles are a very promising future option for us as an airport operator.

“We’ve already trialled self-driving vehicles in some areas. But deployment on the apron on such a long route is a completely new dimension.

“Safety will be the top priority during the trial. The fact that we are tackling these kinds of innovative projects, despite the challenging operating conditions, once again emphasises our role as a future-focused company.”

The autonomous tractor will be trialled on an 8km test route within the airport’s secure area.

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This trial will run until the end of this month.

During the trial, the vehicle will travel at a maximum speed of 13km/h and tow up to either three baggage trailers or two large cargo trailers.

A safety driver will also be present during each test drive in case of an emergency.

The tests will be conducted during the day and at night, as well as in different types of weather.

Fraport logistics, IT and division development vice-president Dennis Stein said: “For Fraport, this project is of high importance because of its potential to facilitate more efficient deployment of staff in the future.

“Due to the size of the airport apron, our employees often have to cover long distances. If parts of these routes could be operated using autonomous vehicles, this would give the ground services teams more flexibility to handle flights even more efficiently.”