Industry moves towards autonomous green GSE

13 March 2018

Pace of technological change is picking up, with new electric-drive solutions

As airlines, airport operators, and ground-handling organisations strive to demonstrate their environmental credentials, the inter airport Europe exhibition in Munich in October 2017 showcased a number of green ground support equipment (GSE) vehicles, at various stages of development.The initial TractEasy prototype from TLD and EasyMile, pictured at inter airport Europe in October 2017. (Ben Vogel/IHS Markit)The initial TractEasy prototype from TLD and EasyMile, pictured at inter airport Europe in October 2017. (Ben Vogel/IHS Markit)

One new partnership in France, between GSE manufacturer TLD and autonomous vehicle specialist EasyMile, uses robotics to meet the need to field environmentally friendly GSE. TLD CEO Antoine Maguin described the arrangement with EasyMile as a “strategic partnership … allowing us to address a fast-growing customer demand with an existent proven technology”.

The TractEasy autonomous baggage and cargo tractor – a prototype of which was shown at inter airport Europe – is based on the TLD JET-16 electric tractor, with added features from EasyMile that are similar to the technology already used in its EZ10 driverless shuttle: remote control, communication, supervision, and sense-and-avoid.

“Many companies around the world are developing driverless vehicles – for example Tesla and Google,” noted Valentin Schmitt, TLD group chief operating officer. “It’s a very clear trend in the automotive business, but we see a very clear opportunity to develop a solution for use at airports, with a field-proven partner in EasyMile.”

The battery-powered TractEasy vehicle is designed to reach a top speed of 25 km/h, with a maximum load of 25 tonnes. By connecting with the flight management system on an aircraft, TractEasy will know which stand it needs to go to. Navigation and obstacle detection is enabled by fusing data from a number of sensors, including lasers, cameras, odometers, and GPS sensors. Industrial-grade safety features include a fail-safe parking brake.

TLD and EasyMile officials told Jane’s that TractEasy is designed for semi-autonomous operations in any weather conditions, without the need to modify airport infrastructure (apart from adding electric charging points where none are currently available).

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