Etihad Airways has launched an innovative trial of autonomous wheelchairs at Abu Dhabi International Airport, in advance of the airline’s move to the new Midfield Terminal. The trial is a partnership between Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi Airports in collaboration with personal electric vehicle supplier WHILL and information technology company SITA.
WHILL Autonomous Drive System wheelchairs enable guests with restricted mobility to move around the airport environment on their own, without the need for assistance from a member of staff. The introduction of the autonomous option gives passengers the choice of moving through the airport independently or relying on traditional assistance via a team of dedicated porters, which will remain available.
The trial, which will last until the end of 2019, will involve intensive testing and mapping of the airport environment to facilitate autonomous movement. This wheelchair is a first for any airline and airport in the region and features sensors to detect obstructions, and an automatic stop function. Additional features in development include real-time gate and boarding time updates for guests.