Israel Aerospace Industries has started a trial of its semi-robotic TaxiBot tow-tractor at Delhi airport in co-operation with SpiceJet.

IAI says that the Indian budget carrier used the tractor in commercial operations for the first time on 29 October, towing a departing Boeing 737 from its stand to the runway.

“Additional Indian airlines, including Jet Airways and IndiGo, are currently evaluating the TaxiBot for their operations as well,” says IAI.

The tractor has been certificated by the European Aviation Safety Agency and FAA for use with 737s and Airbus A320-family aircraft.

In July, IAI disclosed that the tractors – which were previously tested by Lufthansa in Frankfurt – were to be used for a “controlled trial” at Delhi and Mumbai airports until the end of 2018, in co-operation with Indian entity KSU.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Delhi air traffic control and the city’s airport operator are additional partners in the effort.

IAI said at the time that a second phase of the programme foresees delivery of 38 tractors over a four-year period to Delhi and Mumbai airports and “to the general Indian market”.

The manufacturer – which has developed the pilot-controlled vehicle in co-operation with French ground support equipment specialist TLD – says the tractor can reduce a jet's fuel consumption by 85% while taxiing compared with standard operations with the aircraft’s main engines.

Lower noise and a reduced risk of engine damage through foreign object debris ingestion are additional benefits.

“The Indian government regards the TaxiBot as a significant means for addressing the grave air pollution issues in airports,” IAI says.