Abu Dhabi Airport and Etihad complete autonomous wheelchair trial

Self-driving wheelchair navigates passengers through busy terminal before automatically returning itself back to its docking station
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Etihad, Abu Dhabi airport, Whill, Accessibility, Airport accessibility, Autonomous wheelchair, Airport assistance

Abu Dhabi Airport and Etihad have completed guest trials of an autonomous electric wheelchair.

The WHILL was first introduced at Abu Dhabi Airport in September but this was the first time that passengers have tested the mobility system.

Abu Dhabi Airport’s latest trials involved over 60 passengers with restricted mobility, who self-drove the wheelchairs, navigating crowded areas and lounges before safely arriving at their gate.

The wheelchairs then returned autonomously back to the docking station without requiring any human interference.

They fitted with sensors that detect obstructions and have an automatic ‘stop’ function, enabling the trial participants to travel around the airport independently.

Mohammad Al Bulooki, COO, Etihad Aviation Group said: “The feedback we received from guests who participated in these trials was overwhelmingly positive, and I look forward to the possibility of offering our guests the choice of autonomous wheelchairs in the future.”

Ahmed Al Shamisi, acting COO of Abu Dhabi Airports, added: “Convenience is one of the most important factors in the traveler experience today. We want to make it even easier for passengers to enjoy our airports with ease.

“Through these trials, we have shown that restricted mobility passengers and their families can enjoy greater freedom of movement while still ensuring that the technology can be used safely and securely in our facilities.”

Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi International Airport are the first airline and airport in the region to trial an autonomous wheelchair option for passengers with restricted mobility.

Mapping and trialing of the wheelchairs will continue over the coming weeks, before an evaluation will determine the viability of the wheelchairs in the Midfield Terminal.

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