Autonomous vehicle technology expected to transform UK airports

Posted: 23 July 2018 | | No comments yet

UK airports and their logistical operations are set to benefit from the autonomous vehicle technology revolution, a new report has highlighted.


A new report commissioned by Aberdeen Standard Investment’s Airport Industrial and Property Unit Trust (AIPUT) fund has highlighted the future potential for the adoption of automated transport and logistics technology at UK airports.

Produced by ChappellKing and Dornier Consulting International GmbH, the report explores the potential efficiency gains from automation across airport-related functions such as cargo-handling and logistics operations, as well as passenger transportation both to and within airports. 

Commenting on the report, AIPUT Fund Manager, Nick Smith, said: “Autonomous technology promises enormous benefits to airports and the service companies that support them, transforming the way airports work and improving efficiency and safety, both for passengers and other airport users.

“At Gatwick, for example, 90 per cent of the airport’s airside vehicles are stationary at any one time, which is both hugely inefficient and demands a vast amount of space. A much smaller pool of electric-powered autonomous vehicles would drastically cut costs, free up land, reduce emissions and improve safety.  

“Airports and airport real estate providers need to be ready for the introduction of automated technology as soon as operational and safety regulations permit. AIPUT intends to stay ahead of the curve by embracing automation, working with our tenants and partners to build autonomous technology into our site masterplans, which we believe will adapt and future-proof our UK estate assets, ensuring that our clients’ buildings and facilities will be able to accommodate and benefit fully from the rapid development of autonomous technology.”

Various autonomous trials have taken place at a number of UK airports, the first of which was completed at Heathrow in collaboration with IAG Cargo and Oxbotica. Gatwick has recently become the first airport in the world to trial the use of autonomous vehicles shuttling staff across the airfield, demonstrating that autonomous vehicles can operate safely in highly-complex airfield environments.

The UK Government has signalled its support for the industry, with the announcement of £22.4 million of funding under the Industrial Strategy for off-road self-driving vehicles, which it believes will transform productivity in a range of sectors including mining, ports and airports.