Robots, dutchmen and IBM create supersmart baggage handling system

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam just introduced a new baggage handling system which will allow the airport to handle 70 million bags a year, 40 percent more than today with the aid of greater automation including robots.

Schiphol is one of the major transportation hubs in Europe and is the 15th largest airport in the world. Currently the airport handles around 50 million bags a year. Handling more would normally require a lot of new space which Schiphol doesn’t have. So the baggage system had to be made smarter rather than bigger.

In most baggage handling systems, bags can only be located when entering or exiting the system. Schiphol’s new system developed by IBM, dutch airline KLM and Vanderlande Industries can locate every bag at any point in its journey. 60 percent of all baggage will be handled by robots.

After check-in bags go directly into the bag storage, waiting to be loaded on to planes. The robots pull bags from bag storage on demand, releasing baggage on to the baggage conveyor belt only when needed to prevent overload of the system. Linking into real-time flight information allows for quick off-loading of baggage when a passenger misses his flights and for redirection of bags on alternative flights when connections are missed.

The 21-kilometer transport conveyor also uses innovative technology like an automated storage and retrieval system, which automatically places and retrieves loads from 4200 bag storage positions using 36 cranes. Destination coded vehicles load single baggage items into tubs or carts and transport them individually to the required destinations for baggage offloading. Six robot cells for the automated loading of bags into containers and carts complete the system.

Schiphol’s “brains over brawn” baggage system might even tempt me to start checking in luggage again after years of travel ling with a carry-on. But only if I can see the robots first.

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