One of the most convenient changes in the modern era of air travel has been the ability to check in online, drop your bags at the counter, and stroll off to security, potentially without having to speak to a single human. But when everyone else started doing the same thing, the lines at check-in got shorter, but the drop-off line got longer.
SITA, a Swiss telecoms firm specializing in the air transport industry, working in parternship with robotics firm BlueBotics, has a solution: Autonomous robots that check your bags at the curb.
SITA’s robot, called Leo, is being tested at Geneva Airport, the company said in a release late last month. To use the bot, passengers with luggage tap a few buttons on Leo’s touchscreen, scan their boarding passes, drop their bags in its cargo bay, and affix the luggage tags that Leo prints out. The bot then closes up its cargo area—so that no one can tamper with your bag while it’s in transit—and drops the bags off at a loading station, where a human drops the bags on a conveyor belt to be scanned and loaded onto the correct plane.
Leo can carry two bags, weighing up to 32kg (70lb), and, according to SITA, can get from the drop-off area of the airport to the luggage loading zone on its own, avoiding any people that might be rushing to catch flights while it putters around.
A representative for SITA told Quartz that it’s in discussion with several airports and airlines for its technology, but doesn’t have any firm plans to assign Leo to an airport other than Geneva. The company’s European president, Dave Bakker, said in the release that the robot help cut congestion at airports in the future. More robots like Leo would mean fewer people would have to wait in line to drop off bags, or take up more space trolleying their bags around the airport.
If only robots could solve airport security, then airports might not be the most horrible experience that most travelers go through on a regular basis.