Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has successfully tested the TaxiBot that is used for towing airplanes from the airport gate to the runway.
The TaxiBot is a semi-robotic towing system, which towed a Boeing 747-400 passenger jet by Lufthansa with the aircraft jet engines switched off. A Lufthansa Boeing 747 pilot commented that he was able to steer the aircraft as per his convenience and found the braking also very effective while operating an aircraft towed by TaxiBot. He added that the robot provided better grip on icy or slippery surfaces.
The Lahav Division of IAI and Airbus together built the robot with the intention of moving airplanes from the airport gate to the runway without operating their engines, thereby, saving up on fuel. The pilot would manoeuvre the aircraft in the usual manner using the tiller and breaking pedals. IAI claimed that the robot showed extremely good navigating capabilities even in hostile weather conditions. This was the second round of testing that was done on the TaxiBot, the first was done on the Airbus A340-600, in France. The IAI president regarded the development of the robot as a contribution towards the company’s policy in areas like robotics and renewable energy. IAI is currently engaged in creating a prototype of the robot for operating on narrow-body airplanes, like the Airbus 320, Boeing 737 etc. IAI plans to conduct further tests on Airbus Aircrafts during the second quarter of 2011, in order to validate the operational and technical aspects of the TaxiBot before going in for serial production. The certification for the TaxiBot is expected to arrive in 2012, after which they would start delivering the robot to the customers.