All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Panasonic Corporation are to test self-driving electric wheelchairs at Tokyo Narita International Airport.
Incorporating robotic elements, the wheelchairs will be able to safely navigate through the airport independently.
The self-driving wheelchairs, developed by Panasonic and WHILL Co., Ltd., are capable of independently detecting and avoid people and obstacles on the way to their destinations. They function by following a predetermined leader to a common destination, and ANA staff will be on hand to serve as guides.
The test is part of a far-reaching plan to increase mobility and accessibility options at the airport.
The smart elements and adaptability make the wheelchairs a perfect fit for Narita Airport, particularly in helping passengers reach their connections on time.
Since Narita Airport is an international hub, many passengers have to walk a long distance to reach their connecting flights. The airport’s size and high volume of activity can make this inconvenient, and this difficulty is only compounded for elderly passengers with mobility issues.
Juichi Hirasawa, Senior Vice President of ANA:
Narita Airport is a gateway to Japan for millions of travelers 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.
ANA is the largest airline in Japan by revenues and passenger numbers. It is headquartered in Tokyo. Besides the full service carrier ANA, the ANA Group has two LCCs, Vanilla Air and Peach.
Routes: ANA operates 80 international routes and 118 domestic routes.
Fleet: ANA currently has a fleet of 292 passenger aircraft (as of March 31, 2019):
- 53 Airbus A320 (-200,-neo)
- 15 Airbus A321 (-ceo,-neo)
- 1 Airbus A380
- 54 Boeing 737 (-500,-700,-800)
- 29 Boeing 767 (-300)
- 49 Boeing 777 (-200,-300)
- 67 Boeing 787 (-8,-9,-10)
- 24 DHC-800
Passenger numbers: 53.8 million in FY2017 (ANA Group)
Alliance: Star Alliance
N.B. Image credit: ANA / Panasonic
Source: ANA / Panasonic