The need to use an aircraft’s main engines during ground taxi at airports may be eliminated with the innovative new “TaxiBot” tractor, which currently is under development by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in close cooperation with Airbus.
This new-generation solution features a cockpit-operated driving system controlled by the pilot, which would be utilised after the aircraft has completed its typical “push-back” from an airport’s gate with a driver. The TaxiBot’s application opens the way for more efficient taxiing – with benefits that include reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions; lower air and noise pollution; and increased ground traffic safety.
Intended to be compatible with Airbus and other aircraft, there will be two vehicles: one capable of handling single-aisle airplanes sized at 100 seats and above, and the second for larger widebody jetliners.
The response to TaxiBot from airlines, airports and aircraft leasing companies has been extremely positive, according to Heino Hoermann of Airbus’ Business Development office – who is managing the project. “TaxiBot fits our strategic requirements and that of potential customers,” he added. “They see it as a near-term solution to reduce fuel consumption, which also fits with their environmental agenda.”
Featuring a diesel engine and electrically-driven wheels, TaxiBot is powerful enough to tow a fully-loaded aircraft. In addition, a load alleviation system limits the loads and stress on the towed aircraft’s nose landing gear and airframe.
Pending the successful completion of TaxiBot's technical feasibility, a prototype for single-aisle aircraft will enter the test phase this coming spring. The aircraft and tug coupling evaluations and tug qualification are to be performed at France’s Chateauroux airport using a leased A320 jetliner.
A dedicated joint venture of Airbus and IAI is expected to be created in 2012 to finish the TaxiBot’s development and to commercialise the system.
The first TaxiBot prototype was presented during October 2011 at the Inter Airport Europe exhibition in Germany, where it won an innovation award in the “interRAMP” category.