US multinational package delivery service provider UPS and British transport technology provider Aurrigo have announced a collaborative project to deploy an autonomous electric vehicle (EV) designed to move heavy cargo loads to and from aircraft at UPS’s hub at East Midlands Airport.
The Auto-Cargo vehicle can reportedly transport a standard full-size cargo pallet or two half-size aviation industry standard containers or unit load devices up to a total load of 7.5 tonnes and is designed to tow a further fully loaded cargo trailer behind it.
Its autonomous technology has been developed to enable security-cleared drivers to be freed-up to perform other roles around the airport, while also producing zero tailpipe emissions.
The two companies will develop and pilot Auto-Cargo at East Midlands Airport – the UK’s second-largest cargo terminal – over a 14-month period.
David Keene, Aurrigo CEO, said: “This vehicle allows an airfreight operator to help decarbonise and automate its ground operations for lower emissions and greater efficiency.
“By combining the tractor and trailer into one unit, we save space, which in a busy cargo hub like East Midlands Airport is vital to efficient loading and unloading of aircraft.’’
The programme is supported by matched funding from Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, with almost £500,000 in funding.
Matt Nicholson, UPS international director of automotive engineering, said: “Our business is all about delivering parcels efficiently through our global, integrated network.
“This collaboration will help us do that with increased safety and zero tailpipe emissions, making our airside operation more efficient with a purpose-designed vehicle.’’
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