Heathrow airport is trialling technology allowing travellers to interact with its bag drop machines without having to physically touch them.

The technology – supplied by Amadeus subsidiary ICM Airport Technics – uses infra-red proximity sensors, which can detect passengers’ fingers as far as 3cm from the surface screen.

Amadeus and Heathrow had been trialling several options for contactless bag dropping, including “screen mirroring” which would have allowed passengers to operate Auto Bag Drops via their mobile devices, but it was ultimately decided to move forward with the proximity sensor technology.

It has initially been installed on six existing Auto Bag Drops (ABD), although Amadeus said that “Upon completion of the proximity sensor trial, all check-in kiosks and ABD units could be upgraded in a matter of weeks so that all passengers can access contactless check-in and bag drop”.

ICM Airport Technics has supplied over 270 Auto Bag Drops to Heathrow since 2016, and is the sole supplier of self-service bag drops at the airport, with over five million bags being dropped using the technology in 2019.

Commenting on the news Heathrow’s process improvement director, Mark Burgess, said:

“We’re preparing to welcome back more travellers, by looking for new and innovative technologies that will help to ensure the passenger experience remains safe and efficient in a post-Covid world.

“That’s why we’re delighted to be working with Amadeus to trial these touchless self-service bag drop units. This is just one of many new measures that we’re implementing across our terminals, as part of Heathrow’s Fly Safe programme.”

For our look at how technology including robot cleaners, health screening and facial recognition is reshaping the airport experience, see Navigating the New Normal.

This summer British Airways introduced the option for passengers to drop off their luggage as they step off the Heathrow Express at Heathrow T5, stating that “this contactless initiative with Airportr allows our customers to avoid baggage check-in queues and move through the airport without the hassle of carrying luggage”.

British Airways offers bag drop option at Heathrow Express platforms

heathrow.com, amadeus.com