About the project

Ambition of the project

  • Hard-/Software engineering for full-composite lightweight ULDs (Unit Load Devices) that will be integrated into the existing IT-structure of the airports
  • Self-sufficient operation by energy production using energy harvesting technologies
  • Data collection by integrated sensors triggering alerts and sending protocols to the control centre (telematics)
  • Usage of ad-hoc networks for container-to-container communication (peer to peer)
  • Adoption of multi-agent systems (MAS) to conduct a global and autonomous network

Short description 

Litchis from China, tomatoes from Spain and fish from Alaska: Even if these products have to cover great distances to get to the consumers, they have to be fresh. Every year a huge amount of fresh groceries are send via airfreight all around the globe. This increases the demands of the logistical process. The global accessibility of logistical data beyond the reach of the own enterprise allows an autonomous material flow and is a necessity for smooth operation. Objects e.g. transport boxes need to communicate with one another in order to create an autonomous material flow. Until now, technologies such as RFID were used to achieve networking among transport containers. For the operation of a RFID system the required infrastructure (reader, middleware, etc.) limits the usability of the technology along the supply chain. Without these infrastructures the objects are completely isolated from their environment.

To avoid this dependency, DyCoNet points out a different way to enable airfreight containers to work and communicate autonomously. Furthermore technologies such as GSM/UMTS, GPS, and energy harvesting are integrated into the ULDs to enable them to be self-sufficient, able to communicate, and to be tracked. The stand-alone design makes additional hardware installations superfluous while existing processes are virtually unchanged.

The aim is to design an airfreight container that is completely self-sufficient and does not require further operational infrastructure. At the same time the energy harvesting modules ensure that the ULD will never ever run out of electricity, which allows non-stop usage anywhere in the world with permanent access to the business’ network. This offers transmission of data that was collected by the integrated sensors, as well as booking transport equipment at the respective airport.

Until now technologies that used wireless communication such as GSM/UMTS, and GPS could not be used in airplanes due to international laws and regulations. The Lufthansa Cargo who is the consortium manager, will introduce a new device which automatically switches off all those pieces of equipment that use radio-waves for communication.
Another crucial aspect that needs to be addressed is the energy supply. By extracting energy from its environment using energy harvesting technologies, the ULD does not need any maintenance according to the power supply. The harvesting modules convert vibration, temperature changes, and exposure to the sun into energy which then is stored in specially designed accumulators.

The economic feasibility is guaranteed by the huge potential of optimizing the complete process chain. Especially when it comes to high price, low volume goods. Along with the process of optimization goes the reduction of maturities, the reduction of diminution, and the tracking of transport damages.