Droids Would Raise Air Cargo Efficiency

FreightWaves

Robotic loading systems at air cargo warehouses could move a step closer this summer with the introduction of a robotic car parking system at London's Gatwick Airport in August.

The Stanley Robotics system uses a lifting platform on a droid to raise a car and the robot is then guided via a military-grade global positioning system (GPS) to the correct parking space.

LLM Handling founder and managing director Oliver Kingham told FreightWaves that this system could be readily adapted for the air cargo industry.

"We specialize in finding solutions for our customers, so we have gone down the route of automated systems, but every time we have gone to cost an [automated] pallet stacker the cost has been prohibitive. A decent conventional one would cost around £8,000, ($10,500) but an automated system costs £87,000 ($114,000)," explained Kingham.

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According to Kingham, the software technology used by Stanley Robotics is what LLM is mainly interested in. The droid system and the software allow for a very efficient use of space and the system uses GPS rather than sensors and lasers that analyze the loading area.

Stanley Robotics' droids work in a robot-only area and work through information passed on via a central system, telling the droid which car to pick up from where and when the owner will return, using flight information. This allows the droid to make cars available when drivers return from their trips.

This software could be modified for loading pallets onto trucks in an outside space and would be far more efficient than using forklift drivers, partly because the droids would work 24 hours a day seven days a week, but also because "forklift drivers can be a little careless" and they can damage equipment, increasing costs, said Kingham.

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The droid system would be much cheaper than other methods of automation, believes Kingham, and that with some development from major operators such as Ocado or Amazon, the costs of the system will decrease further, making it more likely to be developed for air cargo operations.

"The market is going this way [the automation route] and once these large companies get involved it will give Stanley Robotics the push to develop these systems [for cargo operations] and then the costs will come down," said Kingham.

The belief is that this series of events could happen very quickly. Kingham points to the fact that Stanley Robotics is only two years old and has already tested its system at Charles De Gaulle and Lyons airports.

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