Aurrigo investigates autonomy at Gerald R. Ford International Airport

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

Gerald R. Ford . International Airport
(Image: Aurigo)

The Coventry-based autonomous vehicle developer will use its Auto-Sim software to create an airside digital twin 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, improve customer experience, deliver a host of environmental improvements and lay the groundwork for how the airport could implement autonomous operations in the future.

Using a PlanetM Testing Grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Aurrigo will build a model of airside operations for roads, intersections, stands and all operational vehicle types and movements.

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A team of simulation engineers and project managers, based at the UK’s state-of-the-art engineering center, will work with Ford International Airport planning staff to integrate fleet capacity and flight schedules to simulate airside service to meet current benchmark operations and predict future scenarios.

In addition to modeling operations, the Auto-Sim can simulate the effects of staff shortages due to Covid-19, flight delays, the defrost schedule for departing aircraft and severe weather conditions, including heavy snow and ice.

In a statement, Aurrigo CEO David Keene said: “The world’s airports all face the same challenge to provide better customer service with the most cost-effective use of resources and minimal impact on the environment. It’s a careful balancing act and one that’s been brought into even greater focus with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Auto-Sim enables 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 enables airport planners to model the operational processes, financial implications, customer journey experience and environmental impact of implementing new technology without the risk of costly 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 mimic the airport’s busiest times, which can involve 112 aircraft movements on any given day, requiring over 1000 separate operations.

Before the pandemic, Michigan’s second-busiest airport was carrying nearly 3.6 million passengers annually and handled 41.4 million kilograms of air cargo in 2019, all of which will be factored into the modeling work.

Abhishek Maheswari
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