A self-driving guide robot called YAPE (the acronym stands for “Your Autonomous Pony Express”), has been trialled at Frankfurt Airport (FRA). It accompanies passengers to their gates and helps them to transport their small luggage.
YAPE is an artificial intelligence (AI)-based transport and delivery robot developed by Yape Srl a company of Italian hi-tech manufacturer e-Novia. They deployed the robot in FRA’s transit area for five days. Alexander Laukenmann, who heads the Airside and Terminal Management unit at Fraport AG, said: “As a leader in innovation, we constantly strive to push forward new digital technologies aimed at enhancing the travel experience for our passengers. Our aim with YAPE is to test which aspects of artificial intelligence and robotics can help to further improve the quality of services at Frankfurt Airport.”
During the trials in Pier A of FRA’s Terminal 1 a smartphone app was used to interact with the robot. Passengers placed their small luggage in the robot’s luggage compartment and let YAPE guide them to their gates. Fraport said the robot is able to freely move throughout the terminal thanks to its integrated navigation system and – in the next phase – YAPE will interact autonomously with passengers.
It can carry up to 66lbs (30kg) at a speed of about 3.7mph(6km/h) indoors. Since the self-driving electric robot senses its surroundings, it is able to circumvent obstacles. Nevertheless – with more than 69 million passengers passing through Frankfurt Airport yearly – the busy terminals present a special challenge for the smart robot. Fraport said the trial enabled it to test new ways of enhancing the passenger experience, while at the same time reducing staff workload.
YAPE already demonstrated its capabilities as a dependable indoor and outdoor delivery robot in an initial field trial conducted in December 2018 by e-Novia and Japan Post. The outcome of further testing will determine whether and when YAPE will go into permanent service at Frankfurt Airport.