In Amsterdam, a better airport baggage system (with robots)

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has opened "the world's most modern baggage hall." Why? One word: robots.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

I don't know about you, but in my latest trips through the sky, I've taken to doing everything in my power to avoid bringing carry-on luggage.

It's not the fees, either. (Though they certainly reinforce my aims.) Rather, it's the lugging aspect of it -- across wide terminals, around stroller wheels, through masses of tourists with matching DayGlo t-shirts.

About the last thing I want in an airport, ironically, is my stuff.

In Amsterdam, however, I might want to pack a little heavier -- if only to see the robots take it away.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol announced on Wednesday that it has opened what it claims is "the world's most modern baggage hall."

Backing that claim is serious tech from automated material handling systems makerVanderlande IndustriesGrenzebach Automation and tech giant IBM, who together have implemented a synchronized, roboticized baggage system in the southern hall of the fifth-largest airport in Europe.

The system allows workers to more precisely manage the steadily increasing amount of baggage passing through the airport through more efficient use of space.

Here's how it works: a 13-mile-long conveyor escorts your bag through the airport. Along the way, you'll find 36 cranes that can handle 4,200 bag positions and destination-coded vehicles.

At the end, six robot cells automatically load your bags into containers and carts. The robots literally "pull" checked bags from the storage area, releasing them on the conveyor belt as needed.

It's called an AS/RS (that's "Automated Storage and Retrieval System"), and it means that up to 60 percent of baggage processed in the airport's South Hall will be handled by more productive, less back-aching, 24/7 machines.

The idea is simple: with the system, the airport can handle more bags in less time, with lower cost, reduced energy consumption and in less space. That's good news for the sustainability report as well as keeping KLM flights on time.

The baggage control system is integrated with passenger check-in information, making it less likely that your bag ends up in Moscow when it was meant to arrive in Milan. With links to real-time flight information, the system can quickly off-load and redirect a bag when a passenger misses his or her flight and chooses an alternate.

Of course, a system like this also makes it easier for operators to resolve issues from a central location.

The new system fits into Schiphol's "70 Million Bag" program that's intended to boost the airport's capacity by 40 percent.

Here's a look:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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