Autonomous Airside Vehicles

First conclusions of Stargate’s feasibility study

As part of the Stargate project, we are looking at the feasibility of deploying autonomous vehicles (AV) in an airside environment. To help us identify viable applications and the necessary requirements, both operationally as well as regulatory, we requested the help of Systra UK, an engineering and consulting company specialised in public transport and mobility solutions. Autonomous vehicles are maturing at a significant pace. For many industries, automation is seen as a key method to enhance operational efficiency, increase productivity and reduce costs.

After a site visit at Brussels Airport, Systra together with different departments within Brussels Airport Company, identified over 10 potential use cases for the implementation of autonomous vehicles. These use cases where further investigated and analysed to generate a better understanding of the issues, risks, and regulatory requirements that exist and need to be accommodated, but also to identify the added value that could potentially be created at Brussels Airport by employing AVs.

To understand the implications of the different technologies available and how they may impact different aspects of deployment in an airside environment, Systra contacted around 30 different manufacturers across the world. These ranged from small technology firms to the largest automotive manufacturers.

To breakdown the requirements, 4 principal categories were investigated:

  • Vehicle technology (What to expect from the AV)
  • Infrastructure (What may need to be adjusted)
  • Operations and regulations (Governance)
  • Running costs (Carbon and financial)

It is noted that several successful AV trials are already being undertaken across the globe, including at several airports. While there are examples of unsuccessful trials, these are generally due to pushing technology beyond the limits of its capabilities, and/or instigating change without buy-in from users and stakeholders.  Both of which can be avoided through good user and stakeholder centric change management and through carefully defining the scope of all trials that will be undertaken.

With the study entering a final phase, we are currently investigating the possibility of translating one or more use cases with the highest added value into an actual trial at Brussels Airport, which could then lead to additional learnings and a better understanding of autonomous technologies, and the role they could play at airports.

More info about Systra: