SITA Wants Robots To Make Your Airport Visit Easier… and More Stuff!

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(IFExpress Readers: It is fairly obvious which image above is the SITA robot, Leo. (the middle image). However, in searching for a good robotic image for this week’s story, we came across a number of pictures that caught our interest (and imagination) as you can see above – PLW)

While we had some fun with the concept of airport robots, the folks at SITA are very serious about the future of robot technology in use with aviation – in this week’s case, airport baggage handling. We talked with Stephane Cheikh from SITA Lab who answered a number of questions we thought our readers might find interesting. While the future is rather unclear as to the use of robots in aviation solutions, handling passenger baggage appears to be one logical application. So, we asked a few folks at SITA and their communication people about LEO. Leidar’s Charlie Pryor told IFExpress when we asked the question about the application: “It’s really part of a bigger story about automation throughout the airport. And it is very much a trial at this stage, albeit an interesting one of course.”

Here are a few questions we asked of Stephane:

1. IFExpress: Let’s get started with robot power, we assume it is charged via wall power during the night and via alkaline or lead batteries while in use?

“Leo runs on two lead batteries which can last between 24 to 48 hours depending on the type of operations required. The robot is programmed to autonomously return to its base station to get charged when it’s running low on battery power.”

2. IFExpress: Please describe the way a human interacts with the robot?

“Leo does not directly communicate with passengers. In the case of Geneva Airport Leo was positioned outside the terminal building. Touching Leo’s Scan&Fly bag drop interface opens the baggage compartment doors to allow passengers to place their bags inside. After the passengers have scanned their boarding passes, the tags are printed and can be attached to the bags. With the bags loaded and tagged, the compartment door closes and Leo displays the boarding gate and departure time.”

“Leo then takes the bags directly to the baggage handling area where they are sorted and connected to the correct flight while the passenger heads straight to the gate, bypassing the check-in hall. Being a fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot, Leo is able to transport bags from the point of bag drop to where they are handed over to be injected into the baggage handling system.

The doors of the robot can only be reopened by the operator unloading the baggage in the airport. For the purpose of the proof of concept at Geneva Airport, the baggage robot was monitored at all times.”

3. IFExpress: Please describe how it finds its way to the required destination? I presume robot speed is fixed?

Using GPS technology, Leo is programmed to follow a specific route from where the bag drop takes place to where the bags are handed over and injected into the baggage handling system. The robot’s speed is fixed but is able to stop if it detects passengers passing in front of it.”

4. IFExpress: Will airport inside destinations required any new facility construction?

“SITA hopes to continue further trials and proof of concepts to probe how robots such as Leo can be incorporated into airports. This will vary from customer to customer.  SITA continues to work with the industry to ensure that the baggage robot is able to meet the requirements of our airport customers.”

5. IFExpress: Has an approximate cost/price been determined of the robot?

“Leo is still a proof of concept and as such SITA is unable to provide a cost or price.”

6. IFExpress: Please describe and detail the human/movement sensors and protections?

“The robot has two laser-based sensors: one in front and one at the back of Leo. The robot is programmed to stop when the sensors detect an object either in front or behind. Sometimes if an object is close but still a safe distance away, the robot will decelerate until it is free of the object and then re-accelerate.
Leo also has an obstacle avoidance mode where it will go around an object – within certain thresholds.”

7. IFExpress: If I were an airline or airport, why would I want this device/system in my airport?

“During the trial at Geneva Airport, Leo demonstrated how, by taking the bag drop process out of the terminal building, the number of trolleys and bags in the terminal could be significantly reduced.

Leo also provides an early glimpse into the future of baggage processing and handling being explored by SITA Lab, SITA’s technology research team. Using robotics and artificial intelligence, bags will be collected, checked in, transported and loaded onto the correct flight without ever having to enter the terminal building or be directly handled by anyone other than the passengers themselves.”

8. IFExpress: Are there any rough technical specs available?

“As Leo is still in a developmental stage, we are not able to disclose more details than what has already been provided above.”

9. IFExpress: How would an airline or airport contact SITA/manufacturer of the robots if they wanted to test out a system?

“Airlines or airports can reach out their SITA representatives in their respective regions or contact us through the www.sita.aero website.”

(And yes, this is not an IFEC story per se; however, we wanted to check in on the future of robot technology in our business. Interestingly, SITA has been working the robot solution for some time now and, who knows, it may even be on an airplane in the future… and you may get your future headsets from one – Patricia Wiseman, Editor)


IFEC News:

1:  Here is a news release from Gogo about their new relationship with Aeromexico: Today, Gogo partner Aeromexico announced the launch of a pilot program to provide complimentary in-flight access to Netflix. Netflix members onboard select Aeromexico flights within Mexico, Central & South America will be able to stream the best programming available in the skies, including hit series Orange Is The New Black, Club de Cuervos and Chef’s Table, on their phones, tablets, and laptops at no cost starting on June 17th and through October 17th 2016.

The “Netflixabordo” experience is made possible by our next generation 2Ku satellite wifi system, which offers passengers a ground-like experience, including the ability to stream video.”As the first airline to launch with Gogo’s new 2Ku technology, we couldn’t be more excited to help Aeromexico bring this great new passenger experience to life,” said Dave Bijur, Gogo’s regional president. “Gogo’s industry-leading 2Ku technology is enabling passengers to connect using any Wi-Fi enabled device and experience all of Netflix’s hit series just as they would at home.”

“Passengers on aircraft equipped with the new Gogo 2Ku technology will be notified by the Aeromexico in-flight team that they can access high-speed WiFi. Clients can then open their browser and login for free. Passengers will then be prompted to either login to their existing Netflix account or to create a new, 30-day free trial account, after which they will then be connected to the Netflix service up in the air, just like they would on the ground. Existing account holders onboard Gogo 2ku Aeromexico aircraft will be able to access Netflix at no additional cost through October 17th, while new members can sign up to enjoy a 30-day free Netflix trial – good for use both in the air, on Aeromexico 2Ku-equipped aircrafts, or on the ground.”

Gogo told IFExpress: “Netflix offering is available to everyone flying that has an account. For those passengers that might not have an account, they are able to sign up for the free 30-day trial to take advantage of this partnership. In terms of bandwidth, we are confident that 2Ku can handle the amount of people on an aircraft that will choose to stream.” – Morgan Painter

Here is another release you might find interesting – Gogo Inc. Announces Launch of $500 Million Senior Secured Notes Offering – Jun 9, 2016

2:  IFE manufacturers might just have to consider a new baggage use for a totally new application – World’s First Passenger Drone to Begin Testing

3:  You might want to check out the 35th DASC in Sacramento CA, Sept 25/29, and here are just a couple reasons: MA1: Modern Avionics Architectures – Tim Etherington, Rockwell-Collins and MM2: Aircraft Systems, Safety and Cyber-security: RTCA DO-326A guidance – Laurent Fabre, Critical Systems Labs –www.dasconline.org

4:  Here is a new IFE & Connectivity Show in the US – IFE and Connectivity USA. And, it is co-located with Innovative Aircraft Seating – USA, June 27 – 28 in Seattle, WA!

5:  From an article in ArsTechnica on creating VPN lists, we found this interesting comment – “The best use case for consumer VPNs is local network security, especially on public Wi-Fi networks in airports, hotels, cafes, and even on airplanes (especially since GoGo has been caught issuing fake HTTP certificates for YouTube, which could expose all user traffic—including users’ YouTube passwords—to the inflight broadband provider).” Here is the story

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