Sustainable innovation


Energy is a major operating cost for airports, which are also under increasing pressure to reduce emissions and reach sustainability targets. Given that power is a large proportion of the total operational cost of baggage handling systems, what is the industry doing in terms of innovation and new technology to improve efficiency?

To answer this question Airport Focus asked two major baggage companies – Vanderlande and Leonardo – to provide their unique perspective on the issue.


From a sustainability perspective, we see more focus on energy use and CO2 emissions in airports compared to our other markets. I think the reason for this is that the airport industry is closely connected to fuel. However, modern society is demanding that airports become more sustainable.

This is a licence to grow for airports and I expect it to receive more attention over the coming years. The majority of high-energy consumers in airport terminals have already been optimised, such as lighting and air-conditioning. Now it will be the turn of the baggage handling system (BHS) itself.

It’s only through a combination of sustainable strategies that airports can reduce their energy consumption. They stand to gain the most through smart controls, i.e. intelligent software and data. This is an area in which Vanderlande continues to research and invest. Reuse – and temporary storage – of energy are also important considerations, including the use of ‘power caps’.

In terms of sustainable innovations, our TUBTRAX individual carrier system has the lightest tubs in the industry. By transporting less weight, significant energy savings can be made. In addition, our BLUEVEYOR solution uses less energy and is the world’s first Cradle-to-Cradle® conveyor.

We’re also inspired by techniques that aim to ‘close the loop’, but this is not something that we can achieve by ourselves. Our aim is to create a global network on sustainable innovation that includes both our suppliers and customers.

Modularity and flexibility in the BHS will be crucial in the next five to ten years. If airports can make precise adjustments to the equipment at any time, they will be more energy efficient. If we can realise a situation in which modular and flexible systems are combined with Cradle-to-Cradle® principles, that would be an optimal scenario.

At Vanderlande, these developments – in combination with the new circular business models they create – are going to be a game changer. This was one of the major themes at the recent Airports Going Green conference in Amsterdam, so we know there is a shared appetite for these ideas.

We will keep on investing in energy-saving technologies, ergonomic solutions and life-cycle services. However, we want to distinguish ourselves for our application of Cradle-to-Cradle® and circular economy principles.

Over the coming years, airports won’t be looking for a baggage handling supplier, they’ll be looking for a partner. It’s not just products that make the difference, it’s all about how the different stakeholders can work together on these topics. For me, this is at the heart of saving energy, improving efficiencies and achieving a more sustainable future for airports.

Esther Kersten
Sustainable Business Development, Vanderlande


For over 50 years, Leonardo has been a leading international provider of sorting systems, with its product lines evolving to encompass handling baggage and parcels. By drawing on its knowledge and experience in the development of these systems, Leonardo has been able to deliver technological innovation for turn-key projects with a focus on cost efficiency, high system availability and low operating costs. The Multi-Sorting Baggage system (MBHS) represents the latest of these developments.

A series of innovations and improvements position the MBHS, which is based on  proprietary cross-belt handling technology, as one of the most advanced, high-performance baggage handling systems on the market.

Some of the key benefits of the MBHS include its sorting throughput, which is high while maintaining precision, significant energy savings and high reliability, availability and configurability, all of which contribute to overall life cycle costs. Advanced technology allows the system to sort up to 10,600 baggage items per hour while benefitting from an operational flexibility that allows users to save on operational and maintenance costs.

To generate energy (and therefore cost) savings, one of the MBHS’s main design features is to reduce friction among the components wherever possible. Linear synchronous motors allow power to be transmitted to the sorter’s moving parts without any loss due to friction. Induction power transfer guarantees the availability “on board” power with a fully contactless mechanism while WiFi data transmission allows a continuous command and control channel. These technologies require close-to-zero maintenance throughout the entire life of the system.

These design elements also reduce the friction and subsequent wear and tear on the sorting system’s mechanical parts. To ensure precision and smooth baggage handling, the cross-belt technology guarantees that baggage cannot get stuck due to hanging straps or adhesive surfaces. All of these features together result in a remarkable decrease in maintenance requirements, eliminating operational stoppages due to preventive maintenance. At the same time, eliminating friction creates a further energy saving.

Moreover, by reducing maintenance requirements, eliminating costs relating to damaged or mishandled baggage and giving users the option to reduce the speed of the sorters in periods of low throughput demand, a considerable saving can be achieved in the sorting system’s operational and maintenance costs, including a reduction in power consumption. Independent studies evaluate these savings to be around 20%.

Leonardo has been exploiting these technological developments to provide value for customers and contribute to energy saving, which has led to significant success for the company’s solutions. Leonardo’s baggage handling systems are in operation in several European airports including Rome Fiumicino in Italy, Geneve in Switzerland, Euroairport (Basel CH, Mulhouse F, Freiburg D) and Paris Orly.

Riccardo Majorana
Automation Line of Business, VP Airport Sales, Leonardo’s Security and Information Systems Division

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