South Terminal construction at Denver International Airport – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter.com
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with staff at “my” airport, Denver International Airport (known amongst flyers as DEN, but locally as “DIA”). Â DIA is the 5th-busiest airport in the US, and 13th-busiest in the world. Â During the few hours I spent with them, I got an up close and personal view of the massive expansion project in progress; the largest construction project at the airport since DIA was originally built 20+ years ago.
Aircraft lined at up Schophol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) is the 5th largest airport in Europe and the 15th largest in the world. Already the airport is busy and they only expect it get busier. The problem is there isn’t a whole lot more room to expand the airport and one of the biggest challenges is handling all the luggage. Since they can’t grow bigger, they have had to grown smarter. The airport has been working with IBM to create a futuristic way to handle bags.
The system is housed at the new South Baggage Hall where they hope to increase bag capacity by 40% before 2018. The new system is important, â€œto create an efficient, reliable and fast baggage handling process,â€ said Mark Lakerveld, Senior Manager Baggage at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
No matter where your bag might be in the 13 miles of conveyor system or 4,000 bag positions, the new system can track exactly where it is at. The new baggage operation has 36 cranes and 60% will be handled by robots (yes, robots). After you check in, your bag will be placed into the bag storage. Then a robot will take your bag when needed and place it on the conveyor belt, reducing overload in the system. The new luggage process is connected to real-time flight information, meaning your bag will only be pulled when your plane is ready for it.
Is this the future of airport baggage systems? Possibly. When asked if we might be seeing this system at other airports, IBM spokesperson stated, “There are a couple of similar efforts that are happening internationally that can’t be named specifically.Â This example is indicative of what is beginning to happen and we will see more of in airports across the world — focusing on being smarter about how they utilize the space that they have.”
Although great on paper, let’s how this is not a repeat of Denver International Airport (DEN) attempted at a similar high-tech airport luggage system in the early 1990s. Let’s hope that Schiphol has a little better luck.
Check out this video from IBM on how the system works.