Keeping things locked down

posted on 17th March 2020
Keeping things locked down

Aurrigo, the Coventry, UK-based company that developed an autonomous baggage dolly trialled at London Heathrow, has launched a new product – the Transport Safety System (TSS) – designed to end the problem of baggage and cargo falling from dollies being towed on the apron

The TSS system consists of a suite of sensors that, when installed on a dolly, are able to communicate wirelessly with another control unit fitted in the tow tug. If baggage or other cargo is not locked down correctly, warnings appear on a head-up display screen in the driver’s cab and, if anything does fall from the dolly, the system will detect the change in weight and the tug will be automatically immobilised.

The tug will also be immobilised if the system detects any uncoupling of the towed dollies.

Aurrigo confirms that it is currently in discussions with a number of airlines, ground handling companies and airport operators about the potential of the system.

Miles Garner, sales and marketing director at Aurrigo, recalls: “Our work with International Airlines Group (IAG) and British Airways on the autonomous baggage dolly has given us the opportunity to explore some of the other issues facing the aviation sector and our engineers quickly identified a way of solving the costly issue of incidents involving damaged baggage and ruined cargo.

“There are hundreds of incidents every year where crashes happen due to driver error or the units not being stacked or locked in properly.

“Our Transport Safety System can help eradicate a lot of these as the tugs will not be able to move until everything is in place and, importantly, drivers will be immediately made aware if the situation changes.”

Moreover, Garner adds: “The way we have designed our system means it can be easily retrofitted to tugs and dollies currently in use, or be integrated into the build process for new models.”


All of the TSS ardware and software was designed in-house at Aurrigo’s Advanced Engineering Centre in Coventry. The development of the product was the direct result of Aurrigo receiving feedback from “various parts of the aviation sector”, Garner says, “all asking for a solution to overcome the amount of accidents that happen when transporting luggage and cargo airside.

“These trends have definitely been noted by the senior management teams of airport operators across the world and they are proactively looking at how they can use technology to reduce accidents and speed up processes. TSS could be one of these solutions.”

TSS has been in development for about six months now and is currently classed as an advanced prototype, Aurrigo confirms. “We’re in the process of making a business case to enter into low-volume production with a number of potential customers, who are keen to trial the technology before agreeing to deploy TSS on live operations,” Garner advises.

“There are two options on how we can take it forward. It could become one of the products in our range and, if this is the case, then production will be completed in Coventry, where we have a dedicated cell ready to be ramped up as soon as the first orders are placed.

“Alternatively, we could team up with a tug manufacturer and look at developing the technology so that it is either retrofitted or built as standard,” Garner informs.

“Interest is coming from all over the world, but the largest concentration of enquiries is emanating from the Far East and, in particular, Singapore. This is a part of the world where there is a real desire to be early adopters of new technologies,” he adds.

Autonomous dolly

As described in Autumn 2019 issue of Airside, Aurrigo began testing the world’s first autonomous baggage dolly at Heathrow in May last year. A converted standard dolly, the autonomous unit is equipped with GPS, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and cameras to enable it first to identify its position on the apron and then to execute its ensuing movements safely.

The launch of TSS comes just a few weeks after Aurrigo completed the second phase of its autonomous baggage dolly trials at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Phase 1 consisted of operating the autonomous dolly in a controlled environment in Coventry. This was quickly followed by Phase 2, in which Aurrigo took the technology to a dedicated part of Terminal 5 at Heathrow and collected empty ULDs on agreed routes.

“Our engineers are pleased with how the autonomous dollies have performed and this [satisfaction] has been echoed by staff at British Airways,” says Garner. “There have been lots of things we have learned, as working airside is a massive challenge, with so many different journeys being made by vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

“This is what the trials are all about and a great way of helping to refine the technology. I think it’s safe to say there is a massive opportunity here – there has been no major innovation in the ‘tug and three’ approach for over 60 years, and we’re trying to change that.”

Testing so far has “proved extremely successful and we are now discussing the third phase, which could see us complete trials in a live environment, transporting cargo and luggage to real-time flights”, Garner informs.

Further ahead, the plan is to integrate recently demonstrated ‘swarm’ technology to allow the dollies to be platooned together in formation. “Now that is an exciting development,” Garner enthuses.

And continuing to consider the future, Garner concludes: “We have built a track record for delivering manufacturing solutions and autonomous controls in the automotive sector, but, in the past year, we have also proven this expertise can be applied to improve the efficiency of the aviation sector.

“There are so many opportunities in this field and we’re hoping that the introduction of TSS and the autonomous dolly will lead to further exciting collaborations.”