Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taxiing Robot for Greener Airports

Aircraft taxiing at the airports consumes large amounts of fuel, emit tons of CO2, and creates excessive noise. The aviation industry demands alternative means to tow airplanes from gate to take-off with engines stopped (dispatch towing). All previous attempts at Dispatch Towing were unsuccessful due to two main reasons:
  • Increased fatigue loads that shorten the aircraft Nose Landing Gear (NLG) life cycle, which is unacceptable for safety and economic reasons
  • Aircraft not having a Pilot in Control (PIC) when towed by a normal tractor, which is unacceptable for safety, accountability, and regulatory reasons
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed an innovative new towbar-less towing solution – the TaxiBot (Taxiing Robot). 

TaxiBot is a semi-autonomous 800-hp strong hybrid-electric aircraft tractor that enables airplane taxiing between the gate and the runway with the aircraft’s engines turned off.

A proprietary TaxiBot-aircraft NLG interface mechanism provides pilot steering capability, using the airplane's existing controls in the cockpit. Taxiing speed is controlled by the pilot using the A/C brakes.

The TaxiBot system provides the pilot with the same handling characteristics as if taxiing with engines.

Studies have demonstrated very impressive benefits of the TaxiBot:
  • Reduction in fuel consumption – 85%
  • Reduction in annual fuel costs from $8 billion to just over $1 billion
  • Emissions reduction CO2 & other noxious gasses from – 85%
  • Noise reduction – 50%
  • Reduced opportunity for Foreign Object Damage (FOD) – 50%
  • Improved safety –better grip on contaminated taxiway 
  • Improvement in gates congestion & throughput – significant reduction of time wasted at cul-de-sacs
  • No need for extra fuel for Taxi that is taken to flight
  • Fast & easy implementation:
    • No modification to airplane systems 
    • Computer-based pilot training eliminates the need for simulator 
    • No extra weight & no impact on cargo space 
    • Minimal or no modifications to airports infrastructure 
    • No reduction in airport efficiency and throughput
    • Minimal adaptations to existing procedures 

Following approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after extensive testing, Lufthansa has commenced real flight TaxiBot operations at Frankfurt Airport.

Other European airports have expressed interest, including Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport and London’s Heathrow.

Seeking market opportunities further afield, particularly in Asia and North America, IAI is currently working towards approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

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