Aurrigo investigates autonomy at Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Aurrigo is creating a digital twin of a US airport that will explore the viability of introducing autonomous solutions to airside operations.

Gerald R. Ford International Airport
(Image: Aurrigo)

The Coventry-based developer of autonomous vehicles will use its Auto-Sim software to create an airside digital twin of operations at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Michigan.

The effort is part of the Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE), which provides pilot-testing opportunities to companies bringing emerging air travel solutions to market.

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

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.

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A team of simulation engineers and project managers 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 Auto-Sim can 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.

In a statement, 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.”

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.

Auto-Sim can 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 passengers annually and in 2019 handled 41.4 million kg of air freight, which will all be factored into the modelling work.