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World-first: autonomous towing solving airport's pain points

Solving airports' pain points with autonomous towing: Japan is proactively promoting the use of cutting-edge technology that improves productivity.

Taking on challenges to promote new services through technology

Airports like Narita International all share a number of pain points:

  • The cost of labor is high
  • There are driver shortages
  • Business can be low-margin

Plus, they need to keep up with the latest technology.

Air transport players need to improve cargo and baggage handling performance at airport hubs. By automating these flows, they can also better focus on decision-making and other actions, saving time and increasing efficiency across the board.

Around 5,000 luggage tractors are sold to airports per year worldwide, with the biggest airports making hundreds of purchases. Electrification is ongoing in this segment and is growing rapidly at about 15% per year. Considering global growth in air traffic and the new airports and terminals being built in the next 10 to 20 years, the EZTow is key for this market.

Co-innovation meeting a real need

This trial is based on an offer from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism to operate autonomous towing tractors within restricted areas at the airport. Recently, the number of travelers to Japan has increased and the country is forecasting to welcome 40 million visitors by 2020. However, with the decline in the working-age population, a labor shortage is expected. To resolve this issue, Japan Airlines (JAL) and Narita International Airport Corporation (NAA) proactively promote the use of state-of-the-art technology aiming to improve productivity at the airport.
JAL will perform the trial at Narita, ensuring safe conditions, as the area is congested with an array of airplanes, vehicles, and airport staff. 
Going forward, JAL will verify the equipment in various environments and continue to take on challenges to promote new services through technology.

Autonomous towing in a live and busy airport environment

This project demonstrates the capability of EZTow to carry a payload autonomously between two stations, located in a terminal and its satellite, without any infrastructure modification.

The long-term goal for JAL is to focus the workforce on value-added work and increase
the number of EZTow to autonomously handle repetitive tasks involving long-distance travel.