Frankfurt Airport in Germany is testing a new aerial vehicle to check passenger terminals. The H-Aero is a small, helium-filled hybrid aerial vehicle. From October 28 to 31, passengers were able to see it floating almost silently through Halls D and E in Terminal 2.
Airport operator Fraport AG joined forces with the start-up Hybrid-Airplane Technologies GmbH to carry out test flights assessing whether the aerial vehicle could be used to perform status checks in the terminals.
The H-Aero has approval to fly over people and combines the advantages of a balloon, airplane and helicopter in a single system. The hybrid aerial vehicle can perform a vertical take-off like a helicopter, for instance. It features a helium-filled, lens-shaped balloon that keeps it in the air as well as wings that can rotate 270° to steer it in all directions.
The initial idea behind the field test is to make life easier for employees performing status checks in the terminals. Instead of having to inspect the large terminal halls on foot, employees would be able to check the sites from their desks with the help of camera images and use this to report any issues. Fraport says these issues could be spillages and clean-ups but it is conceivable that the H-Aero could also be used for security surveillance applications.
During the test, the H-Aero flew a pre-defined route through the check-in halls and used a thermal imaging camera to transmit images of the terminal. Going forward, with the help of AI technology, the H-Aero will be able to make its rounds and report any issues autonomously.
Alexander Laukenmann, head of Airside and Terminal Management, Corporate Safety and Security at Fraport AG, explained: “The use of innovative technology plays a pivotal role in all areas of airport operations – including ensuring traffic safety in our check-in halls. At Frankfurt Airport, we are already experimenting with technologies that many still consider to be in the realms of science fiction. The H-Aero innovative flight concept is a good example. We believe it has various potential applications that we will continue to investigate in the next stages.”
Csaba Singer, CEO of Hybrid-Airplane Technologies GmbH, said: “We are very grateful for Fraport AG’s openness to new technologies. Innovation has a real chance of success only if it is used to simplify processes and only if passengers and employees see it as socially acceptable. We have successfully demonstrated that both are possible over the past four days in Terminal 2 of Frankfurt Airport in what was a genuine world first.”