Stuttgart Airport trials autonomous baggage tug

The vehicle is set to aid ground handling staff with future operations

The first trials at a German hub of an autonomous baggage tug are underway at Stuttgart Airport.

Within this early stage of the SmartFleet project, the vehicle developed by VOLK Fahrzeugbau is able to drive independently around certain routes on the apron.

Tests for navigation to a pre-defined destination, lane keeping, obstacle detection, acceleration and braking are currently on-going.

Stuttgart Airport
Photo Stuttgart Airport

Technological advances allow the prototype to navigate around without the need for human intervention. The vehicle is equipped with 3D cameras including infrared light to enable night vision, two safety laser scanners and an advanced GPS system.

The tug is an addition to the airport’s expanding electric fleet, with a lithium battery used as its power source.

Currently, there is always a person on board the vehicle as a safety precaution. Developing a fully autonomous piece of ground handling equipment has proven incredibly challenging, according to the airport. Traffic conditions at sites are very different in comparison to the roads.

The vehicle manufacturer, Aebi Schmidt Germany is also included in the consortium, alongside the airport and VOLK. The companies are also studying the effects of automation on the working environment. Autonomous equipment could take the pressure of ground handling staff in the future, aiding them with lifting and carrying out other tasks.

In total, the research project has a volume of €3.9m (£3.3m).