GSE manufacturing giant TLD had a correspondingly large presence at this year’s inter airport. Adding to a wealth of equipment on display on the TLD stand, the company was also highlighting the potential of a new autonomous unit, the TractEasy driverless baggage tractor
TLD and Toulouse, France-headquartered autonomous driving software specialist EasyMile, are collaborating to develop TractEasy.
EasyMile’s complex software enables a robot unit to operate in a complex and live ramp environment. TractEasy will integrate ramp operating requirements with relevant safety parameters and navigational software to optimise across a ramp.
The vehicle is to be based on TLD’s JET-16 electric tractor and will integrate the remote control, communication and safety detection tools developed by EasyMile as part of the driverless technology it has already incorporated in its EZ10 driverless shuttle. An EasyMile EZ10 demonstrated its autonomous driving at the inter airport outside show area.
TractEasy will be able to transport baggage and cargo from an airport terminal to the ramp area around one or more aircraft via service roads fully driverless. It will, says TLD, operate in normal traffic, without infrastructure modification, and in all weather conditions.
It will be fitted with an integrated cabin to allow the operator to take control for the final approach of the dolly train as it approaches an aircraft. TractEasy will, a TLD spokesman says, provide significant operational benefits and offer a financial payback in less than two years (depending on operational intensity and other conditions).
“This is a strategic partnership for TLD, allowing us to address a fast-growing customer demand with an existent proven technology,” remarks Antoine Maguin, CEO of TLD. “Airports represent a real short-term opportunity for driverless vehicles, with a well-defined environment, and very significant potential payback. TLD and EasyMile are sharing strong values, starting with innovation.”
“TLD will benefit from EasyMile technological leadership and strategic partnership with key players in the industry such as Continental,” adds Gilbert Gagnaire, CEO of EasyMile. “On the other hand, EasyMile is happy to provide its technology to a well-proven tractor platform, able to address the customer’s challenge on the ramp, and to the extensive TLD service network. Those synergies will definitely create value to customers.”
The initial prototype of TractEasy, the MSN-001, was on display at TLD’s stand, complementing the driverless technology being demonstrated live by the EasyMile EZ10.
The prototype is expected to complete testing at Toulouse Francazal Airport by mid-2018. Commercial operations are expected to begin by the first quarter of 2019.
The EZ10 is said to be particularly suited to first and last mile passenger transportation both landside and airside at airports. Its driverless technology is based on data from a range of LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors, cameras and GPS location data, all processed by advanced algorithms.