The era of robots promises to change the way we travel, and airport robots will be the first and major step towards a robot-driven future in the travel industry.
Robots have already made their way into airports. A number of them are already using robots for mundane processes like cleaning airport floors and providing information to flyers. As technology becomes more advanced, robots will see a faster and increasing adoption at terminals across the globe. They are predicted to take over our airports by 2030, according to a recent study. Robots will automate and streamline most of the processes and procedures carried out at airports. Airport robots can become a common sight in the near future and completely change the way we travel.
Robots can significantly reduce the time passengers spend at terminals and can streamline most of the current processes. Although robots will mostly prove beneficial to passengers, they will ultimately benefit airline companies and airport authorities as they will help attract more passengers towards air travel. Here are a few ways robots are going to simplify the procedures at the airport, proving beneficial to companies and consumers alike.
Flyers usually reach the airport hours before their flight departure time as check-in processes are lengthy and time-consuming. Robots can simplify the check-in process for flyers and help airlines save time, human resources, and money. Robots can scan boarding passes of passengers, allot seats, and help in other check-in processes. They can work at a faster pace and long hours as compared to humans, and hence, prove efficient in saving time and money for airline companies. This also results in a pleasant experience for flyers and increases their possibility of flying again the next time they travel. Robots have already been useful in reducing check-in times at airports with the Spencer robot trials at Schiphol airport. During the tests between November 2016 and March 2017, the robot scanned passengers’ boarding passes, guiding them to the correct departure gate.
AI-robots can simplify the baggage handling process right from the check-in at the origin airport and check-out at the destination airport. AI-robots can carry the luggage of the passengers and can replace the manual process of the passengers carrying them on trolleys. With embedded sensors, the robot can travel along with the passenger, reducing their work. RFID tags placed on the bags can then be read by robots, and this information can be transferred to robots at the destination airport resulting in an easier baggage handling process. The robots employed at the destination airport’s baggage carousel can automate and continue with the baggage handling process. Robots can read tags placed on bags and can compare the information with the database. They can then easily identify and match the baggage with the passengers and can deliver the baggage to them. Another robot can then carry the baggage to the check-out terminal resulting in an easier check-out process. Thus, robots can completely handle the baggage concerns of passengers and significantly simplify it. This can result in an increase in passengers choosing air travel over other methods as passengers value comfort while traveling.
Security is a major concern in today’s age for airports. Airport robots armed with computer vision, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies can significantly improve the security at airports. Robots can detect threats with the help of embedded facial recognition technology. They can scan for suspicious people or people showing unnatural behavior at airport terminals. The robots can alert security officials or even capture the suspect themselves. The Anbot security robot deployed at Shenzhen’s Bao international airport can identify suspicious people and is even equipped with a taser if the need arises. However, facial recognition technology is not completely dependable at the current stage, and hence, airport robots can’t be entrusted completely with airport security yet.
Robots can be used to provide a personalized experience to flyers. Robots can interact with passengers and help them with their queries. An AI-translator airport robot can prove to be of great help for tourists from different countries. It can understand multiple languages and solve passenger’s queries. They can guide them to the taxi stand, refreshment areas, and baggage carousels if the tourists are unable to understand the directions displayed on boards. They can even serve as an entertainment source for kids by interacting with them, playing videos and audios as requested by kids on screens attached to them. In October 2016, the Mineta San José International Airport used customer service robots to entertain passengers. These robots could dance, play music, and click photographs of passengers that could be emailed or displayed on the robot's screen. Additionally, robots can even serve as personal porters, helping carry luggage of passengers and provide them a happy experience.
Robots have been deployed for carrying out mundane and repetitive tasks at airports, such as cleaning and maintenance. The Incheon airport in South Korea has deployed robots for airport cleaning, which is a large vacuum cleaner fitted with sensors and cameras to detect areas that require cleaning. With the help of sensors, the robot can detect obstacles in its path and avoid them, ensuring that the robot works efficiently. It can choose the best route available for cleaning and can move autonomously using a map of the airport stored in its database. Airports can get congested at times and can prove to be a harrowing experience to flyers. Airport robots can be leveraged to ease congestion and provide a happy experience to passengers. Robots can limit the number of passengers in a particular area of the airport if it detects that the area may get crowded. They can prove the most useful during the holiday seasons when airports operate to their maximum capacity. With efficient management, airports can run smoothly, and airlines can reduce overhead costs resulting from inefficiently managed situations.
Aircraft need to travel from the taxiway to runway and vice-versa, according to their use. The distance between the two may seem insignificant. However, it results in increased operational costs for airlines in terms of fuel consumption. With the use of taxibots, airlines can cut down on fuel consumption. The aircraft can be pulled by the taxibot and hence, proves much more economical. This also results in the reduction of noise pollution and faster turnaround for the aircraft. Airlines can ensure better on-time performance with the use of taxibots. It may even be possible to pull the aircraft with the help of the taxi bot without even having the need to turn the aircraft on, significantly saving amounts of aircraft fuel. Operational and certification tests have already begun at major airports and airlines have already started implementing taxibots at airports across the world.
Will airport robots completely replace the human workforce? Maybe yes, maybe not. They are already simplifying many processes carried out at airports. However, it has not reached the level where it can be depended upon completely, and it will take years before it becomes completely trustworthy. Then, there is the moral question of how much of robotics use becomes necessary for airline companies and airport authorities. Whatever, the case airport robots are here to stay, and their presence will only increase with passing years. Robotic terminals are sure to take over our airports, and can completely replace the traditional ones when the technology becomes completely reliable.
Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.