Automation at the airport

30 August 2022

In recent months, Engineering360 and Electronics360 have both devoted a significant amount of space to automation. We’ve looked at automation in law enforcement, in the kitchen, in healthcare and even in the military.

Now we are taking a moment to look at automation at the airport. While the topic of autonomous flight is well covered on both Engineering360 and Electronics360, this article will deal almost entirely with automation within the confines of the airport. We’ll save autonomous flight for another day.

Following are just a handful of tasks being automated in and around the world's airports.

Check in

Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport is using a facial recognition technology system that allows travelers to check in automatically at the airport.

To operate the system, travelers check in for flights and check their baggage using self-service kiosks and they then pass through security and board planes, all thanks to facial recognition technology, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.


Secom, a Japan-based security company, has developed an autonomous security and inspection robot capable of issuing light and smoke warnings to suspicious people.

The so-called Cocobo Robot autonomously patrols public spaces like airports and retail centers, for instance, detecting suspicious objects such as weapons or abandoned luggage or suspicious persons. Additionally, the robot features a remote-controlled arm for inspecting the underside of vending machines or the interior of garbage cans for potentially threatening objects.

The Cocobo Robot is able to detect suspicious objects and behaviors via artificial intelligence (AI), alerting authorities via 5G. Additionally, the security robot features on-board cameras, gas, proximity and thermal image sensors, lidar, and a microphone and speakers.

Watch as the Cocobo Robot issues a plume of smoke as a warning to a suspicious person in the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Secom.

Luggage tracking

U.K. software startup UtterBerry has developed smart security trays for airports that enhance security and prevent the loss of luggage.

According to its developers, the smart tray features a smart card reader that is linked to a smart card issued to passengers at airport security kiosks and thus to any belongings that passengers place on those trays.

Source: UtterBerrySource: UtterBerry

In addition to preventing the loss of luggage, the trays can also serve as another layer of security by analyzing the contents of the luggage on the tray using an X-ray interface. This reportedly improves the speed of airport security checks at airports and enhances border security.

Meanwhile, researchers at India’s Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Punjab have devised a similar smart system for preventing baggage theft at airports.

By linking data about passengers with their luggage via barcodes, the system can scan and authenticate the luggage as passengers collect it from the conveyor system and attempt to leave the airport. Once scanned, the data from the bag is then matched to a centralized database where passenger and luggage information is held. When a match is established, the passenger is allowed to exit the gate. However, in the event that the information does not match, the person with the luggage is prevented from leaving the gate.

The system also reportedly improves baggage pickup by displaying estimated time of arrivals (ETAs) on a nearby linked liquid crystal display (LCD) board. The same data that prevents the bags from being stolen also informs the system where the bags are along the luggage conveyor, thereby eliminating wait times for passengers. The system also alerts forgetful passengers leaving the gate without their luggage.

Food delivery

Ottonomy has developed its line of Ottobots that perform restaurant and retail deliveries within an airport setting. The delivery bots deliver items to consumers at the airport. To accomplish this, the robots created a digital map and navigate through crowded airports via integrated navigation software.

Source: OttobotSource: Ottobot

Meanwhile Incheon International airport in Seoul South Korea offers a similar app-driven ordering system for travelers at the airport. Ordering from the app, customers can receive goods from participating restaurants in the airport — Baskin Robbins, Paris Baguette and Dunkin’ — via the Air Dilly delivery robot.


The GermFalcon robot by Dimer UVC Innovations was created to improve airplane hygiene using ultraviolet-C (UVC) light to kill viruses, bacteria and other bugs on surfaces and in the air. The robot was designed to navigate the cabin inside an airplane while it exposes surfaces to UVC light.

Source: DimerSource: Dimer

Dimer said that the UVC light from GermFalcon can disinfect air, water and surfaces and can eliminate germs such as coronavirus, influenza and Ebola.

Customer service

A trial of a customer service robot recently took place at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. LG’s multi-purpose customer service robot CLOi GuideBot is designed to greet and guide travelers, perform mobile ordering and display flight details.

The 1.5 m tall robot features an LG LCD face display, microphone, 3D camera and 18 sensors including lidar, time of flight (ToF) and inertial measurement unit (IMU) — all of which enable the robot to navigate busy spaces and react to approaching customers with visual and auditory effects.

These are just a few examples of the automation happening in the world’s airports. As automation becomes more and more sophisticated, these innovations are likely to continue at a rapid pace, and, before long, machines will be running the world's airports.

Check back with Electronics360 for more on this and other engineering and electronics topics.

To contact the author of this article, email

Powered by CR4, the Engineering Community

Discussion – 0 comments

By posting a comment you confirm that you have read and accept our Posting Rules and Terms of Use.
Engineering Newsletter Signup
Get the GlobalSpec
Stay up to date on:
Features the top stories, latest news, charts, insights and more on the end-to-end electronics value chain.
Weekly Newsletter
Get news, research, and analysis
on the Electronics industry in your
inbox every week - for FREE
Sign up for our FREE eNewsletter