Etihad recently carried out a trial for autonomous wheelchairs at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Etihad and Abu Dhabi International Airport have partnered with personal electric vehicle supplier WHILL and information technology company SITA, for this first-of-its-kind project.   

Expressing his views on this partnership, Bryan Thompson, chief executive officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, said, “We are delighted to be working with Etihad to trial the use of autonomous wheelchairs at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

“Enhancing the freedom of movement of those with mobility restrictions forms a part of our wider commitment to delivering a smooth and seamless passenger experience to each and every traveller through the implementation of innovative and cutting-edge technologies throughout Abu Dhabi International Airport and our upcoming Midfield Terminal.”

With the help of WHILL Autonomous Drive System wheelchairs, travellers with restricted mobility will be able to move around the airport without the assistance of a staff member. The state-of-the-art wheelchair comes with  sensors to identify obstructions and offers an automatic stop function. Other features in the pipeline include real-time gate and boarding time updates for guests. 

However, those who are not comfortable with the autonomous wheelchair option, can utilise the traditional assistance via a team of dedicated porters. 

The trial will last until the end of this year and will involve extensive testing and mapping of the airport environment to facilitate autonomous movement. 

In addition to this, Etihad is also said to be working on technologies to ease travel experience for passengers with other impairments such as blindness and deafness.

Etihad’s autonomous wheelchair project:

Namrata Bhandari