UK tech company chosen for US aviation first at Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Photo credit: Aurrigo

A UK transport technology specialist is about to embark on an aviation first in the US that could provide the blueprint for the airports of the future.

Aurrigo, which is leading the world in first and last mile autonomous passenger transport and aviation baggage and cargo solutions, will use its Auto-Sim® software platform to create a ‘digital twin’ of airside operations at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Michigan.

The Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE) provides pilot-testing opportunities to companies focused on bringing emerging air travel solutions to market.

Through this initiative, Aurrigo will identify cost savings, enhance customer experience, achieve a host of environmental improvements and, importantly, lay the foundations for how the airport could implement autonomous operations in the future.

David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo, said:

“The world’s airports are all facing the same challenge of providing greater levels of customer service with the most cost-effective use of resources and minimal environmental impact. It’s a careful balancing act and one brought into even sharper focus with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Auto-Sim® will enable Ford International Airport to be the first in the US to complete a real-world feasibility study of a current airport using digital twin technology.”

He continued:

“This allows airport planners to model the operational processes, financial implications, customer journey experience and environmental impact of implementing new technology without the risk of expensive mistakes.

“We hope it will encourage other airports within the US and around the world to utilise the Auto-Sim® platform to streamline operations and reduce their environmental impact, whilst also providing the optimal customer experience and preparing them for future operations that involve airside automated vehicles.”

Utilising a PlanetM Testing Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Aurrigo will build a model of airside operations, covering roadways, intersections, stands and all operational vehicle types and movements.

A team of expert simulation engineers and project management specialists, based in its advanced engineering centre in the UK, will work with Ford International Airport planning staff to integrate vehicle fleet capacity and flight schedules so they can simulate airside servicing to benchmark current operations and predict future scenarios.

As well as modelling operations, the British software platform can also simulate the effects of staff shortages due to Covid-19, flights delays, the de-icing schedule for departing aircraft and severe weather events including heavy snow and ice.

Aurrigo will work with Ford International Airport and consortium partners Southwest Airlines, Stantec, Seamless and the Michigan Office of Future Mobility & Electrification to complete this project by the end of May 2022.

The British software has the capability to replicate the airport’s busiest periods, which at any given day, could include 112 aircraft movements, requiring upwards of 1000 individual activities to be serviced.

Before the pandemic, Michigan’s second busiest airport catered for nearly 3.6 million annual passengers and, in 2019, handled 41.4million kg of air freight – all considerations that will be factored into the modelling work.

The technology can also generate detailed energy consumption data for every vehicle modelled in the airside operations, including optimising current operations and exploring ways to minimise distance travelled to service the flight schedule. 

Tory Richardson, president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority said:

”FLITE enables us to partner with entrepreneurs and established companies focused on developing innovative new products and services to improve Airport operations and air travel experience for guests.

“We are proud to welcome Aurrigo to our Airport to offer them the opportunity to test their Auto-Sim® software platform alongside our airside operations.”

Aurrigo has been creating headlines in the aviation sector after using its Auto-Sim® technology to help Changi Airport in Singapore with development work on a new terminal. 

The company, which was founded by brothers David and Graham Keene nearly 30 years ago, has also used its in-house software, technology and engineering expertise to develop the Auto-Dolly®, a new autonomous luggage and cargo system that has the potential to deliver 60% carbon savings for airports.

It is anticipated that the digital twin modelling work could prove the business case for these dollies to replace conventional diesel-powered luggage and cargo tractors and trailers by two thirds.

David concluded:

“COP26 highlighted how important sustainability will be in the future global economy and airports have a massive role to play in minimising their environmental impact.”


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