The Japanese airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA), has announced it will work with Panasonic to test the latest generation of powered wheelchairs as part of its plan to increase mobility and accessibility options at Narita Airport (IATA: NRT). ANA said that by incorporating robotic elements, these wheelchairs will be capable of navigating the airport independently, making them an ideal mobility solution for Japan’s growing population of senior citizens.
As an international hub, Narita Airport is the busiest airport in the country, seeing hundreds of thousands of travellers each day. The airline said that the volume of activity can make navigating the airport a challenge, especially for elderly travellers and those with mobility issues. ANA Narita Airport Service is teaming with Panasonic to run trials on the new power wheelchairs which boast tracking capabilities that allow them to navigate the airport.
Juichi Hirasawa, senior vice president of ANA said: “Narita Airport is a gateway to Japan for millions of travellers every year and we seek to partner with other leading Japanese innovators to make sure that arrival, departure and making connections are all as convenient as possible. ANA’s partnership with Panasonic will make Narita Airport more welcoming and accessible, both of which are crucial to maintaining the airport’s status as a hub for international travel in the years to come. The robotic wheelchairs are just the latest element in ANA’s multi-faceted approach to improving hospitality in the air and on the ground.”
The self-driving electric wheelchair jointly developed by Panasonic and WHILL Co, Ltd., is capable of independently detecting and avoid people and obstacles on the way to their destinations. The wheelchairs function by following a predetermined leader to a common destination, and ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides. The smart elements and adaptability make the wheelchairs a perfect fit for Narita Airport, particularly in helping passengers reach their connections on time.