In the future, Taxibots will roam by themselves on the aprons of airports, towing aircraft from terminals to runways.
Currently, Taxibots are still manually operated by the aircraft’s pilot.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the developer of the Taxibot, has recently reached an important milestone when the system achieved a speed of 23kt (43km/h) during taxiing of a fully-loaded Airbus A-320.
This means the Narrow Body (NB) Taxibot has proven its ability to bring aircraft to near their take-off position at the same speed as aircraft which are taxiing using their own jet engines. This record speed was achieved during the latest tests held at the Chateauroux test site, without exceeding the maximum allowed fatigue load on the nose landing gear.
While conventional towbarless tractors are limited by guidelines from the aircraft manufacturers (Airbus and Boeing) to towing aircraft at a maximum speed of 17kt in maintenance towing operations (at 60% of maximum takeoff weight), Taxibot has the power to move fully-loaded aircraft (at maximum takeoff weight) at up to 23kt without the need to change or replace the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU).
According to IAI, Taxibot allows the pilot full control of the system using the aircraft’s tiller and brake pedals as in regular taxiing. Pilot training is therefore minimal.
Further tests are currently being conducted on a Lufthansa B737 with the support of both the aircraft manufacturer and the official flight governing authorities, EASA and CAAI. Following certification, in-service evaluation will be conducted on commercial flights departing from Frankfurt International airport. This is scheduled for May.
Recently, a second Taxibot vehicle was delivered to Lufthansa at Frankfurt airport for testing and in-service evaluation. A third vehicle will be delivered shortly.
Taxibot can be used with any type of aircraft (narrow or widebody) and requires no modification to the aircraft’s systems; nor does it increase its weight or reduce its cargo capacity.
IAI says that a very significant reduction in fuel consumption is achieved by using Taxibot, regardless of flight range. In addition to the substantial reduction in CO2 emissions achieved by using TaxiBot, the system reduces foreign object damage (FOD) cases by 50%, reduces noise pollution, and does not use the airplane’s power resources for taxiing.
According to IAI, leading airlines, ground-handling companies, airports and leasing companies around the world have shown considerable interest in Taxibot, and advanced negotiations are taking place with several potential customers. The potential market is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in the first decade.