Solar energy harvesting ULD tracking trial underway by CHEP


CHEP Aerospace has announced the start of an open ended field trial of  a solar energy-harvesting global position system (GPS) and global system for mobile communications (GSM) tracking for unit load devices (ULD).

CHEP will test the energy-harvesting component on 50 ULDs on board a range of aircraft, while CHEP’s subsidiary Innovation Centre, based in Orlando (US), will conduct impact testing to test overall robustness. The solar panel looks like a patch similar to those used for container panels when they are repaired after being punctured by a forklift. The trackers and solar panels will be installed on each ULD and connected to a power converter to harvest the energy from sunlight and charge the on-board batteries.

The trials will use asset tracking specialist OnAsset Intelligence’s SENTRY FlightSafe real-time data collection and GPS tracking technology. This has a tracking device approved by the US government’s Federal Aviation Administration. The CHEP/OnAsset system is designed to improve information for tracking cargo shipments and help reduce damage to products.

CHEP’s IT director, Floris Kleijn, says: “Our new ULD is a truly unique combination of excellence in business, technology and design, resulting from two years of development work with intellectual property rights being owned by CHEP and OnAsset. It combines the accuracy of GPS with the redundancy of GSM, in cases where GPS is unavailable.” OnAsset chief executive officer, Adam Crossno, says: “The device meets the aviation industry’s stringent laws and regulations that govern the use of portable electronic devices and batteries on board the aircraft.”

Kleijn says there is no fixed time period for the trial and it will finish when they have learnt enough to move development to the next phase or when its ready for production. He explains that the trial will focus on proving energy harvesting components can be monitored remotely and he expects that the energy harvesting components will play a large role in reducing the size and weight of the ULD.


Container technology is also being studied by a European Union research project called Dyconet or Dynamic Container Network. CHEP competitor Jettainer and its parent company and airline, Lufthansa, are involved. Dyconet aims to advance lightweight ULDs that harvest energy and are connected to airport IT systems.


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