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McCarran International Airport Expands Its RFID Baggage-Handling System

The Las Vegas airport's new Terminal 3 includes a Vanderlande solution with Motorola RFID readers and antennas, to track the screening and sortation of bags departing from the airport.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 10, 2012When the new Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport, in Las Vegas—used for domestic and international flights—opened this summer, it included an RFID system for tracking every bag leaving the airport. The RFID-based baggage-handling solution, provided by Vanderlande Industries, with software integrated with the airport's back-end system by Alliant Technologies, expands on the existing RFID system currently in use within McCarran's Terminal 1. The airport had also installed an RFID solution to track and manage the routing of bags within Terminal 2, which has since been closed just as Terminal 3 began operation.

The new terminal's system, comprising approximately 55 fixed RFID readers, monitors the movements of bags as they pass along portions of a 30,000-foot conveyor setup that also includes 73 high-speed diverters, 32 carousels and 20 Vanderlande Vertisorters. Terminal 3 opened on June 27 for international departures, and on July 31 for domestic departures, and its baggage-handling system manages the movements of about 10,000 bags daily. That represents about one-third of the luggage processed throughout the entire airport, according to Samuel Ingalls, McCarran Airport's assistant director of aviation information systems, with a total of 38,000 bags in Terminals 1 and 3. Terminal 3, spanning two million square feet, is significantly larger than Terminal 2, says Ingalls.

McCarran Airport's Samuel Ingalls
When a passenger checks in a piece of luggage, an airline employee affixes a baggage tag with the destination airport printed on the front in readable text, as well as a bar code. However, the tag also has a built-in ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID inlay with a unique ID number, linked to the bag's intended route in Vanderlande's baggage-handling software, known as VIBES.

Terminal 3's baggage-handling solution includes 16 inline screening machines that check each bag for explosives before approving it to be routed and then loaded onto the correct flight. The system also comes with Motorola Solutions XR450 RFID readers installed above the conveyors, each with four Motorola AN480 antennas, says Ian Horrigan, Vanderlande Industries' project manager.

When a bag is placed on the conveyor, it passes under a reader that interrogates the RFID inlay's unique identifier and forwards that ID number to the VIBES software residing on the airport's database. The software provides the sortation system with three layers of functionality, says Fred Marten, a controls engineering manager at Vanderlande Industries. The software manages baggage-handling-based data (for example, which luggage is destined for a particular flight), provides localized controls for the conveyor system's programmable logic controller (PLC)—to send instructions to the conveyor system indicating the direction in which a bag should be routed, for instance—and manages the RFID read data.

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