Air cargo logistics company Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) and airport operator Aena have partnered to pilot autonomous vehicles for cargo transportation at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona – El Prat Airport, Spain.

In the first phase of the ten week trial, an autonomous ramp tractor will move cargo between the WFS cargo terminals and Terminal 1 of the airport.

Equipped with AGV technology, the tractor recognises its environment, detect obstacles at 4m and 10m, and act to prevent collisions.

According to WFS, the tractors will not enter aircraft manoeuvring areas or aircraft interacted with at this phase.

During the trial, which will last until mid-May 2023, the company plans to explore the feasibility of automated vehicles in a busy airport tarmac environment.

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The company also plans to launch a trial of AGV in its cargo area.

WFS Spain PMO manager Jordi Campderrós said: “We have selected Barcelona for this trial because of the progressive approach of Aena to automation and sustainability, and because the perimetral tarmac road linking WFS’ premises and the Terminal 1 provides an ideal environment to conduct this assessment.

“Given that WFS handles cargo onboard more than 25,000 import and export flights a year at Barcelona, and more than 42,000 flights in Madrid, the future benefits of AGV technology are obvious in terms of productivity gains, safety, and sustainability, and this can ultimately be replicated at airports across the globe.”

The proof-of-concept trial is part of an innovation project between partners WFS and Aena.

This project complies with the first automated ground vehicle (AGV) guidelines developed by IATA’s Ground Operations Automation and Digitisation working group (GAD).

Other members of the project include ground support equipment manufacturer FASEREK, intralogistics solutions provider MOVVO and towing tractors producer MOVVO.

Earlier this year, WFS received a contract from Zongteng Group to manage its freighter flights at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) International Airport in France.The autonomous vehicle will move cargo between the warehouse and apron at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona – El Prat Airport. Credit: © WORLDWIDE FLIGHT SERVICES.