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Revolutionizing ground-handling procedures and increasing airport efficiency, economy, and safety

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IVObility (Revolutionizing ground-handling procedures and increasing airport efficiency, economy, and safety)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2020-03-31

People are travelling by air each year and a common complaint is delayed flights. 10% of flight delays are caused by inefficient ground handling, amounting to €8.9 billion in annual losses. On top of that, smart technologies are an upcoming trend in the airport industry. Automation via the application of robotics and ICT plays, and will play even more in the future, a vital role in airports’ operation and traffic facilitation, passenger processing and security. As such, some airports have started exploring the use of specific autonomous vehicles (AVs) or kits to remotely control vehicles. But progress is still slow, widening the gap between cutting-edge and archaic facilities. Existing solutions offer partial automation (e.g. automation kits that need human presence for their operation), can be very expensive (up to €500K/vehicle in case of AVs where the whole ground handling services – GHS – needs to be replaced) and most are limited to very specific activities (moving baggage or shuttling passengers). IVObility is a fully automated robot driver that can be installed in any conventional vehicle within 10mins, converting it into an AV. Our innovation aims to reduce inefficient ground handling by automating ground handling services, making them faster, safer, more robust, less dependent on human operators, and able to withstand all weather conditions. To bring our innovation to the market, we need the support of the EIC Accelerator, to achieve the following objectives during the 24-month project: optimize the design and finalize the HW/SW development; finalize and develop the final prototype; conduct at least two 8-10 month pilot tests with our early adopters; automate the module production to achieve a final price reduction of at least 40%; acquire the necessary certification (CE marking); and set-up a solid dissemination, communication and commercialization strategy to launch the product to the market by Q3/2022.
The current feasibility Study has provided the different facets required for our innovative patented robotic driver to be deployed commercially within two years.
Technological viability has been confirmed, with a clear roadmap to reach TRL9, including identification of the technological risks and relevant mitigation measures. As such, to finalize the technical development BG Robotics will need to (i) optimize the neural network system; (ii) finalize the final IVObility prototype development, along with its validation with early customers; (iii) scale-up the production; and (iv) acquire the necessary certification.
Commercial feasibility has also been ratified, with the multiple market segments available for IVObility identified and evaluated and dates of entry having been defined to ensure commercial success. Regulations and standards affecting not only IVObility but also our key partners and target markets have been reviewed and included in our considerations, confirming these will not be hindrances for our deployment. Finally, our supply-chain has been mapped and presented, from suppliers to stakeholders and prospective customers, as well as dissemination strategies chosen to expand the company’s customer base. The commercialization will start from Europe, before expanding first to the US and then to a global level. Moreover, this FS demonstrates that IVObility is not infringing patents or pending patent applications of other companies.
The aforementioned commercial data enabled financial feasibility study to be carried out, which has mapped the break-even date for Q4/2024 (2.5 years after the finalization of the Accelerator project).
Having carefully considered all the aspects, we confirm that our product will disrupt the GHS market, by introducing the first robotic driver, with unique characteristics able to convert any conventional vehicle to an AV. It will boost the growth of our company and enable airports to rapidly move towards automation.
Our innovation has numerous advantages over the existing AVs and vehicle automation kits. More specifically, it (i) makes tarmacs ~10% more efficient (able to function 24/7, more trips in less time, minimize delays – less aircrafts waiting on tarmacs, enhance safety); (ii) reduces logistic stress of operator shifts and lack of capacity; (iii) is a highly flexible solution, as it can be easily moved/used from one vehicle to the other, whilst it does not require technical expertise for installation; (iv) improves safety and avoid human error on tarmacs, especially in extreme weather conditions (it does have a built-in feature to function in all weather conditions), thanks to our advanced sensory module; and (v) collects data to improve airport operations, along with its operation (self-learning abilities)
Furthermore, it opens new options towards the complete automation of airports’ vehicle fleet, but it can achieve it via a highly financially conscious way while it enhances the financial and environmental foot print of the industry (efficient use of GHS vehicles can result in significant reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions). By implementing our innovation to conventional vehicles we will allow them to function as normal, even in very specific conditions, such as in pandemic situations. Today, as the new Covid-19 virus has affected business activities in multiple industries all over the globe, a solution such as IVObility will allow a partial/full continuation of these activities, without putting the health of workers at risk.