Monday, 3 May 2021
JAL Officially Introduce First Autonomous Towing Tractor Operations at Narita Airport

Japan Airlines (JAL) recently announced the decision to officially launch and operate autonomous towing tractors to transport checked-in baggage at Narita airport. In October 2019, JAL launched a pilot program with Narita International Airport Corporation (NAA) to conduct various trials utilizing autonomous towing tractors within restricted areas; fully supported by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism of Japan.

The results of the trials verified that JAL`s representatives had accumulated the necessary experience and knowledge to ensure safe operations of autonomous vehicles, equivalent to an Automated Driving Level 3 qualification (1), in an environment where a number of aircraft, vehicles, and airport staff are stationed. With the qualification in hand, JAL announced the decision to officially operate autonomous towing tractors at Narita airport. (2)

Going forward, JAL will continue to cooperate with public and private sectors to realize driverless operations within the restricted areas of the airport. JAL believes that automation is a key driver for creating new and safe ground handling operations and will continue to implement new technology at the airport.

Vehicle Type: TractEasy by TLD

Details of Operations: Transport baggage from the Main Building-Terminal 2 to the baggage sorting area at the Satellite Terminal.

Remote Control System: Dispatcher by SB Drive Corporation

(1) Automated Driving Level 3 "equivalent" is defined as the system performing an overall operation on the condition that the driver always monitors the status of automated driving in the vehicle and take over the operation when the action to avoid danger is necessary, such as when it is difficult to continue automated driving.

(2) The Satellite Terminal at Narita Airport is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Transportation of checked-in baggage will start after the reopening of the Satellite Terminal.

Author: Martin Jop
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