In a consortium led by future urban mobility expert Robin Brownsell, PriestmanGoode has worked alongside Centaur Robotics and Naurt to design and build a transportation device that aims to improve the airport experience for those with mobility issues.
The Geo concept brings together PriestmanGoode’s design expertise, Centaur Robotics’ experience in advanced technology and Naurt’s location optimisation software capabilities. It was developed as part of the Aviation X Lab Moonshoot competition, which asks entrants to provide solutions that will “bring back the joy of the journey”, according to PriestmanGoode director Chris Parker.
Aviation X Lab is an aviation-specific incubator programme that comprises five global aviation giants: Emirates airline, Thales, Collins Aerospace, GE Aviation and Airbus.
Parker says that PriestmanGoode was already aware of Centaur Robotics’ work and saw the Aviation X Lab incubator programme as an opportunity to “solve the challenge of assisting passengers with reduced mobility through an airport”.
The Team Geo consortium started with analysing the customer experience, “identifying both the pain points and opportunities” before devising a technological intervention, Parker explains. Though it is difficult to quantify the number of passengers who currently choose not to travel due to reduced mobility, PriestmanGoode points to data suggesting that up to 10% of the global population cannot walk more than 400 metres and that approximately 3% of airport passengers require mobility assistance.
How does it work?
The Geo concept is an adaptation of Centaur Robotics’ two-wheeled, self-balancing, electronic personal vehicle Centaur, which was designed to keep people mobile whatever their age. Even before adaptations were made, it could “fit into the space of a dining room chair, spin in its footprint and easily navigate narrow doorways”, says Parker.
It can also elevate users to the height of bars and tables or bring them to standing eye-level height . Parker describes the design as “stylish, elegant and slim with the intention that you see the person, and not the chair”.
Using its knowledge of product and passenger experience design, PriestmanGoode adapted Centaur for the airport environment. The consortium installed an onboard personal assistant using the technology developed by Naurt, which can be accessed through an integrated screen or the user’s personal device. Parker says that this provides “location, navigation and timely reminders, helping the passenger reach the gate in time”, but also aims to help them “make the most of their time in the airport”.
What are the potential benefits?
PriestmanGoode associate director Jo Rowan suggests that Geo can give users more time to “do what they want to do” – whether that is shopping, dining or entertainment – without the added stress of mobility barriers. She adds that, very often, people with reduced mobility “are taken directly to the departure gate and miss out on this part of the airport experience”. Geo can provide users with autonomy throughout their airport experience, taking them from the kerbside all the way through the airport, according to Rowan.
For airport operators, Rowan says potential positives include reducing delays as well as gaining “potential revenue generating opportunities”, as those who are currently excluded would be more inclined to travel.
Throughout the research process PriestmanGoode considered how Geo could facilitate easy cleaning, where luggage and personal items would be stored, how comfortable it should be, and the kind of infrastructure needed to support the service.
This includes elements such as charging docks, collection points, help points and the digital experience, “which enables passengers to navigate the airport and ensure they are in the right place at the right time”, says Rowan.
The consortium team will now reflect on the feedback gathered from the presentation of the Geo project on 9 March 2023 in Dubai. The next phase would be further engagement with users and airport authorities as part of a “co-creation approach”, which Rowan says is key to the product’s success.