While at the SITA Air Transport IT Summit 2016 conference in Barcelona, I got a chance to meet Leo, a specialised robot designed to help passengers check their luggage baggage faster at the curb before they enter the airport terminal.

The fully autonomous robot can check-in, print bag tags and carry up to two 32kg suitcases. It follows a programmable tracks and has laser guided obstacle avoidance system to navigate high traffic areas.

Leo was named after the Italian Renaissance inventor and engineer Leonardo da Vinci–creator of the world’s first robot.

While only a concept system now, the SITA Lab innovation gives us an idea of how automation might help improve baggage processing—one of the areas of the journey passengers are least happy about.

SITA hopes robots like Leo will reduce the need for trolleys and general congestion at the terminal land-side.

“Leo demonstrates that robotics hold the key to more effective, secure and smarter baggage handling and is major step towards further automating bag handling in airports. Leo also provides some insight into the potential use of robots across the passenger journey in future,” says Dave Bakker, President Europe at SITA.

Leo was put through his first trials at Geneva Airport’s Terminal 1. Stephan Cheikh tells me he was pleasantly surprised to see how well real passengers reacted to the robot. 

“In a busy airport such as Geneva Airport, the use of a robot such as Leo limits the number of bags in the airport terminal, helping us accommodate a growing number of passengers without compromising the airport experience inside the terminal. Leo also proves the case for increased use of robotics to make passengers’ journey a little more comfortable, whether it is checking in baggage, providing directions or helping them through the security process,” said Massimo Gentile, Head of IT at Genève Aéroport.

Leo, which was built for SITA by BlueBotics, and is only one of the many innovations SITA Lab has come up with to make airline and airport operations more efficient and pleasant for passengers.

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