TaxiBot, a semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle, transports airline aircraft from terminal gates to the runway and back, without using the airplane's own engines.
TaxiBot's in-service evaluation started last month with commercial Lufthansa Boeing 737 flights departing out of Frankfurt, Germany. TaxiBot use by airlines reduces fuel consumption by 85 percent. As such, the return on investment for airlines is less than two years.
Since 2008, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), along with its industrial risk-sharing partner TLD, has been cooperating with Lufthansa LEOS in the development of the TaxiBot, with the support of both Airbus and Boeing. Several working groups are actively studying and preparing to introduce TaxiBot in some of the world’s leading airport hubs in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
An “Airbus No Technical Objection” approval is expected to be issued soon for TaxiBot operational tests in Frankfurt. This will allow TaxiBot to dispatch Airbus A320s before takeoff. The Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 airplane families comprise over 70 percent of the world’s mainliner airplanes, hence the potential market is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Advanced negotiations are progressing with several potential customers.
“This innovative system will save millions of dollars in fuel savings for airlines, ground-handling companies and airports worldwide,” said IAI President and CEO Joseph Weiss.
Commercial aircraft engines are very effective at high-altitude flight, but not when driving on the ground. During the ride, those engines burn large amounts of fuel, emit carbon dioxide, and create a lot of noise in the environment. TaxiBot allows the start of aircraft engines near the runway and significantly reduce the time they run on the ground.
The fuel consumption of a Boeing 747 during a 17 minute ride before it takes off is approximately one ton of fuel (1250 liters). A ride using TaxiBot reduces fuel consumption by 85 percent when the system itself needs only 25-30 liters of fuel.
“Using TaxiBot requires no changes to the aircraft and operating systems, there is no extra weight of the aircraft and the cargo volume has not declined by carrying it,” IAI said in a company press release. “Simulations and studies have shown that the entry of TaxiBot active use will require slight changes in the various airports.”
TaxiBot will hold a demonstration with a Lufthansa Boeing 737 on Feb. 19 at Frankfurt International Airport.