A new report commissioned by Aberdeen Standard Investment’s AIPUT fund (Airport Industrial and Property Unit Trust) has highlighted the scale of progress and future potential for the adoption of automated transport and logistics technology at UK airports.
The report explores the potential efficiency gains from automation across a range of airport-related functions such as cargo-handling, logistics operations, and passenger transportation both to and within airports.
Trials of a variety of autonomous technological applications have already taken place at a number of UK airports. The first trials of automated airside vehicles have been completed at Heathrow in collaboration with IAG Cargo and Oxbotica.
Gatwick recently became the first airport in the world to trial the use of autonomous vehicles to shuttle staff across the airfield, demonstrating that autonomous vehicles can operate safely in highly-complex airfield environments.
Nick Smith, fund manager at AIPUT, said, “Autonomous technology promises enormous benefits to airports and the service companies that support them, transforming the way airports work and improving efficiency and safety, both for passengers and other airport users.
“At Gatwick, for example, 90% of the airport’s airside vehicles are stationary at any one time, which is both hugely inefficient and demands a vast amount of space.
“A much smaller pool of electric-powered autonomous vehicles would drastically cut costs, free up land, reduce emissions, and improve safety. In Düsseldorf, a newly-developed robotic car parking system has demonstrated a 60% reduction in required parking space compared to human drivers.
“Airports and airport real estate providers need to be ready for the introduction of automated technology as soon as operational and safety regulations permit.”