CAAS Announces Winner of Second Aviation Challenge

Winning prototype to ease physical strain on airport workers and 
boost productivity in cargo handling process

A team led by Singapore Technologies Dynamics Pte Ltd (ST Dynamics)1, in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries, won the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore’s (CAAS) second Aviation Challenge, for its prototype that will help boost productivity in the cargo handling process.

Launched in 2014, the objective of this Aviation Challenge was to develop solutions to automate key segments of the cargo handling process to reduce the physical strain on cargo handlers and improve productivity. Currently, the process of consolidating cargo into larger pallets and containers for transport in aircraft, and the reverse process of taking apart cargo from these pallets and containers, are labour-intensive and time-consuming. An estimated 40% of manpower deployed for cargo handling are involved in this build-up and breakdown process. It is also physically-demanding as cargo handlers have to manually carry the cargo shipments during the build-up and breakdown process, and the pallets can be built up to three metres in height. 

Thirteen teams submitted proposals for this Challenge. Two teams – ST Dynamics and TUM CREATE Ltd Singapore (TUMCREATE), were shortlisted and awarded a total of S$4 million in funding to develop prototypes over two years, since September 2015. The team with the winning prototype was presented a cash prize of S$300,000. (More details on the solutions are in the Annex.)

The prototypes from ST Dynamics and TUMCREATE performed well during their respective final prototype demonstrations, with scope to further improve their performance. Both prototypes were able to reduce the workload for workers by about 30%, whilst improving their contributions. The prototypes’ software were able to optimise for multiple parameters such as weight and centre of gravity at the same time, which will improve work productivity. In terms of space utilisation, the prototypes achieved 89% space utilisation on average, which is slightly better than the 85% space utilisation that a cargo planner can achieve today, while maintaining comparable performance standards as the current manual processes. On average, the two prototypes achieved a build-up time of 48 minutes, which is comparable to the typical build-up time of up to 40 minutes today. 

Some companies have expressed interest to follow up with the teams on the technologies that have been developed. CAAS will also be working with interested companies to further develop these prototypes for implementation at Changi Airport. 

Mr Kevin Shum, Director-General of CAAS, said, “I congratulate the teams for the great effort. Both teams produced excellent solutions, which leveraged advanced cargo scanning, intelligent optimisation and robotics technologies. The solutions are cutting edge. They have the potential to transform the cargo handling process – benefiting airlines, ground handlers and workers. They will support the air transport industry transformation map, aimed at raising productivity and creating better jobs for our air transport workers.” 

Mr Paul Tan, Vice President of Technology Development at ST Dynamics, said, “We are deeply appreciative of the opportunity offered by CAAS to demonstrate ST Engineering’s robotics capabilities in Aviation Challenges 1 and 2. The automated solution for cargo handling operations is a game-changer for modern airports. Our solution, which is jointly developed with Israel Aerospace Industries, will significantly improve cargo handling productivity and support future growth of airport operations with minimal modifications to existing infrastructure or operating processes.”

Dr Suraj Nair, Project Leader – Technology Development & Commercialization at TUMCREATE, said, “We are excited to be part of the Aviation Challenge 2. The excellent research infrastructure in Singapore has made it possible to design, develop and implement the world's first AI-powered robotic cargo handling system in record time. With this success, Singapore can lead the competition in logistics and develop hi-tech artificial intelligence solutions far beyond the original target markets.”

Mr Wong Chee Meng, Senior Vice President, Cargo Services at SATS, added, “SATS has always embraced technology to handle volume increases and transform ourselves into a next-generation ground handler. I am heartened to see, through the Aviation Challenge, impressive prototypes developed to enhance efficiency and increase productivity.  Productivity enhancements are in line with what we are doing at SATS and we are glad to have collaborated with CAAS as part of the technical committee and evaluation panel for this impactful exercise.”

Mr Adrian Shou, Head of Air Freight at DHL Global Forwarding, said, “CAAS is playing a leading role in identifying opportunities and driving key initiatives to improve productivity in the air freight industry. This proof of concept, which explores the use of smart technology and automation, will allow the industry to find solutions to mitigate current manpower issues, improve productivity and potentially yield cost savings in the long run. DHL is proud to be a part of the evaluation panel for Aviation Challenge 2 and looks forward to seeing further development in this arena.

Enclosed:- Annex - Factsheet on Second Aviation Challenge

About the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
The mission of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is to grow a safe, vibrant air hub and civil aviation system, making a key contribution to Singapore's success. CAAS' roles are to oversee and promote safety in the aviation industry, develop the air hub and aviation industry, provide air navigation services, provide aviation training for human resource development, and contribute to the development of international civil aviation.

For more information, please contact: 

Michelle Teo
Assistant Director (Corporate Communications)
Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore
Tel:      +65 6541 2086
Mobile: +65 9825 0982

1ST Dynamics is the Advanced Engineering Centre for ST Engineering, which spearheads the development of a broad portfolio of future technologies and capabilities for ST Engineering.

Last Updated on 04 December 2023