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Robots: The next big thing in aviation

Humanoid Robot 'Pepper' is unveiled at the 'World of Me: Store of the near future installation' in London, Britain, April 13, 2016. The robot is the first humanoid robot capable of recognising the principal human emotions and adapting its behaviour accordingly. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

 

ALKESH SHARMA / Emirates Business

After beacons and self-automated kiosks, robotics is the next innovative kid on the block that is all set to bombard the world of smart airports in the coming months. Aviation experts maintain that an investment of upto $5 billion is expected to be made in the sector of aviation robotics in next three years.
“Most of the airports are already using smart applications and have an array of self-service options. But now we are looking forward to have something really game-changing in the form of intelligent steel machines navigating through the corridors of busy airports and imparting help to harried passengers,” said Nicolas Rhodes, an artificial intelligence scientist working with a Norway-based robotics firm.
“We have trials going on at airports in Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan and very soon robotics will become a common proposition at airports globally. So far results are quite encouraging and interestingly travellers are showing keen interest in exploring robots. We have observed that they don’t mind taking their help and it is actually an encouraging sign for the industry,” added Rhodes, who has specially flown to Dubai from Oslo to participate in the Airport Show that is starting from Monday in the emirates.
Robots would prove handy in various operations of airports; right from ground handling to greeting passengers, printing boarding passes to moving wheel-chairs, and driving cargo vehicles to sprucing up the working of baggage claim area in the airport.
“We are using robotics in various operations but on a very miniscule scale. To reach our ultimate goal, we have to harness their potential more aggressively as they can be used to make travellers’ stay in the airport much more comfortable. Many big airports in European Union nations are expected to adopt robotics in up to 70 percent of their operations by the end of 2017,” said Mark Lyn, who is working on a robotics project, funded by European Commission, in Sweden.
“Airport Show is a great opportunity for us to meet like-minded people and to collaborate on projects that call for enhanced role of robotics in airports,” added Lyn.
If on one side, industry experts are expecting best out of robotics technology then on the other side they are well aware about the bottlenecks that need to be addressed.
“Smooth navigating in the airport would be a challenging task for robots. This is because airports’ environment and surroundings keep changing with time; sometimes there is massive rush, luggage trolleys are parked at various places and there are many unexpected obstructions. There we cannot programme the robots once in the morning with one command. They need to be really smart to take decisions on their own with changing circumstances,” pointed out Lyn.
However, researchers from Orebro University, Sweden, are working in the direction to ensure hassle-free ride for robots in the airport premises. On a trial basis, they have equipped the robot with a prerequisite for navigation – maps. It helps the robot to scan its surroundings by measuring the distance to various barriers by using laser beams.

Humanoid Robot 'Pepper' is unveiled at the 'World of Me: Store of the near future installation' in London, Britain, April 13, 2016. The robot is the first humanoid robot capable of recognising the principal human emotions and adapting his behaviour accordingly. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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