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ANA Experiments With Robots on Baggage Handling Team

ANA Experiments With Robots on Baggage Handling Team
Joe Cortez

Japan’s All Nippon Airways is experimenting with adding robots to their baggage loading team, from towing luggage to the gate to loading items aboard aircraft. The goal is not to cut down on human resources, but rather to add efficiency to aircraft operations.

All Nippon Airways is looking to go “Simple & Smart” with their ground operations, by testing if robots can be the baggage loaders of the future. In a press release and video, the airline announced the successful trial of the first autonomous robot loaders, from pre-loading checked bags to towing it out to the aircraft.

Partnership with Toyota Industries Sets New Efficiency Standard

The luggage handling robots were tested in two places at Kyushu Saga International Airport (HSG) between Dec. 14 and 18, 2020. During the trials conducted with Toyota Industries, a robotic arm loaded luggage into containers, which were towed to the gate by an unpiloted, autonomous tug.

According to a video shared by ANA, the robotic arm was able to load luggage as heavy as 77 pounds into two containers, at a rate of one bag every 25 seconds. In addition, the arm stacked them in the most coherent way possible by accounting for size and container space.

Once the arm loaded the luggage, an autonomous towing tractor took the containers from the baggage area to the gate. Operating at a top speed of just over nine miles per hour, the unmanned vehicle was able to navigate successfully to the right aircraft without intervention.

The goal of the robotic trials is not to replace humans with machines, but rather build upon a record of safety and systematic operations. ANA wants to ultimately change how labor force functions to create an environment of enhanced safety and usability towards the future.

With the successful trials, ANA will work with Toyota to determine how to potentially deploy the technology at future airports. By employing robots, the airline hopes to reduce the amount of time it takes to load airplanes, resulting in a better customer experience.

Robotic Loaders Latest Step in ANA’s History of Innovation

The addition of robots to their workforce marks the latest attempt at innovation for the Japanese carrier, focused on creating a sustainable company. In 2019, the carrier announced they would potentially fuel future flights with the help of microbes found in rabbit droppings.

View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. Gizzabreak

    December 29, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    “… The goal is not to cut down on human resources, but rather to add efficiency to aircraft operations …” … oh, and a totally unforeseen side effect is that it completely eliminates rough handling and thieving in this part of the baggage handling chain. Surprise, surprise. Bravo.

  2. htb

    December 31, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    @Gizzabreak: the idea that Items could end up missing from checked bags would never cross the mind of Japanese travellers…

  3. Orangejello

    January 10, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Yeah, the rough handling was my first thought as well!

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