Leonardo’s Ravi Singh, head of sales (BHS), North America, tells Tara Craig about the company’s plans for the United States

Leonardo has been described as ‘one of the main players in the BHS sector in Europe’. How will you replicate this in the United States?

Leonardo’s baggage handling solutions (BHS) are used by leading airports in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, among them Paris/CharlesDe Gaulle and Orly Airports, Frankfurt, Rome/Fiumicino, Milan/Malpensa, Hong Kong International Airport, Zurich, Geneva, Lyon and Kuwait. These BHS solutions are based on proven, reliable and trusted cross-belt sorters that provide the highest bag throughput, low operation and maintenance costs, no bag jams and compact design with a low footprint. Many US airports still use conventional BHS technologies subject to jams and mis-sortation. Leonardo plans to replicate its international success by addressing these critical pain-points in the North American BHS market. In our opinion, a gap exists in the US for BHS technologies which have higher, jam-free throughput and lower operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. With our cross-belt sortation solution, we aim to fulfil this gap, thereby penetrating the market. It’s worth pointing out that, at Leonardo Group level, the US is already a domestic market with significant industrial presence and over 7,300 employees. This will help us penetrate the market faster.

Ravi Singh, Leonardo

Ravi Singh is head of sales (BHS), for Leonardo in North America

What does the average age of US airports mean in BHS terms?

The US has an extensive air transportation network. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) 2023-2027 encompasses 3,287 existing and eight proposed non-primary airports anticipated to open by 2027.

However, the average age of a US airport is about 40 years. The US BHS market is still dominated by legacy traditional sorting technologies such as horizontal and vertical diverters, pushers, carousels and so on, which are extremely mechanical in nature, resulting in high O&M costs. Additionally, they have a low baggage throughput capacity of around 2,000 bags per hour (bph). Conventional technologies are often harsher on bags and result in damaged, delayed or missing bags. This can not only disrupt the passenger experience, but also adversely affect the reputation of the airline and airport, and maybe even lead to financial loss.

Many of these legacy BHS are at the end of their lives and, before the COVID-19 pandemic, several were already running at their design capacity and awaiting a much-needed upgrade.

A gap exists in the US for BHS technologies which have higher throughput and lower O&M costs

These factors mean that there is a significant business opportunity for Leonardo in the US market and our BHS solutions can add value to all stakeholders in the industry. Advanced contactless technologies, such as linear motors for propulsion systems, inductive power transmission for on-board power distribution and Wi-Fi data transmission, give cross-belt sortation technology an extremely high reliability, a sorting capacity of up to 8,400bph (about four times that of conventional conveyor technologies) and high operational flexibility with very low noise levels (less than 65dB). These targeted technological design choices assure very low and simple operations and maintenance as the BHS is not subject to mechanical wear and tear, thus giving significant savings to both airports and airlines.

Leonardo cross-belt sorter

Cross-belt sorters provide high bag throughput and low operation and maintenance costs

What US airports are you currently working with and what do the projects involve?

Leonardo is already working with several key airports and airlines that have shown strong interest in the cross-belt sortation technology. We are carrying out advanced BHS concept designs and some of these stakeholders have travelled to see our BHS in operation in Europe. Their feedback has been extremely positive. Due to confidentiality reasons, at this point we cannot name them.


How are you upgrading your popular MBHS?

The new MBHS-HD (multi-sort baggage handling system – heavy duty) is the only machine in the world able to overcome gradients of up to 15° and a vertical difference of more than 8m, so it can be installed in airports where the security and sorting processes take place on different floors. This advantage is significant because it enables a single machine to manage both processes and transport baggage between different areas, without the need to use elevators. We’re also offering a new set of reduced-radius curves, making it possible to adapt the system to a wider range of layouts and meet our customers’ individual needs. Such flexibility in installation will be critical for BHS upgrades in the US market, where space is a major constraint.

Advanced contactless technologies give cross-belt sortation technology an extremely high reliability

Leonardo MBHS-HD

Leonardo’s MBHS-HD can handle gradients of up to 15° and a vertical difference of over 8m, making it unique among BHSs

What other new technologies have you introduced or are intending  to introduce in the US?

The US is a golf-loving country. While a golf-bag (larger than standard size) is handled manually using conventional systems, the cross-belt sorter in its standard configuration can automate it with precise loading and unloading in two consecutive sorter cells. A similar concept could be easily extended to the likes of ski equipment.

We might introduce some of our newer technologies in the US market, depending upon customers’ requirements and budget. One could be a new suite of software and sensors to improve visibility over systems’ operational status, enabling an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) dashboard and predictive maintenance. Another important aspect is the ‘digital twin’ of the BHS: a virtual replica of the physical system that gives operators the opportunity to see how their system is performing, where the problem areas lie and how the system could be optimised. SCADA 3D has also generated keen interest with some of our existing and potential customers. 

As far as the baggage make-up area is concerned, the US BHS market is primarily based on carousels for baggage sortation, which require bags from multiple flights to be manually sorted before being delivered to the destination flight. This manual handling has potential for mis-sortation. The cross-belt sorter, however, is able to unload the baggage on a wide range of outlet types based on belt conveyors, carousels, chutes and gravity roller conveyors. Combining a chutes-based solution with a cross-belt sorter can offer flexible, fully automatic sortation – with each chute dedicated to a flight – requiring little or no maintenance compared to carousels.

Leonardo baggage at speed

Providing efficient BHS is key to delivering a positive passenger experience


Are the needs of US airports different to elsewhere?

Most US airports have a very tight space for BHS when compared with Europe. This makes the cross-belt sorter even better suited here, due to its compact design and low footprint. Many linear feet of conveyors and divertors could be replaced by a high-performing compact cross-belt sorter, saving not only time but money. BHS upgrades with a cross-belt sorter mean minimal or no changes to the existing building and utilities, thus saving costs for civil-works modifications. As far as US regulations/de-facto standards are concerned, there are a few minor BHS modifications which are quite normal for compliances, like UL electrical certification and porting control software on Allen Bradley programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

Advanced contactless technologies give cross-belt sortation technology an extremely high reliability

What are Leonardo’s ambitions for the BHS market in the US?

The US is a strategic market for Leonardo as far as baggage handling is concerned. We are carrying out substantial investments and are here to establish long-term strategic partnerships with key stakeholders. Our next five-year plan involves significant order intake in the US market. Leonardo is committed to bringing our proven, reliable and trusted technology to America. We want to be the partner of choice for US BHS stakeholders.