What is a TaxiBot? – FreightWaves
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam plans to buy two TaxiBots to move planes from gate to runway instead of using their own jet power, according to operator Royal Schiphol Group. This is part of the airport’s efforts to reduce pollution and make operations more sustainable.
Delhi and Bangalore airports in India conducted trials with a special aircraft towing vehicle. And Lufthansa tested a TaxiBot seven years ago. But Schiphol is the first airport in the world to want to introduce sustainable taxiing on a large scale.
The TaxiBot is a semi-robotic hybrid towing vehicle manufactured by Smart Airport Systems under license from Israel Aircraft Industries for taxiing unpowered aircraft. The system is based on a vehicle that connects to the aircraft and is controlled by the pilot. Special towing vehicles can reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions, including CO2, by up to 85% and reduce noise pollution by 60%, according to the company. And it improves efficiency by reducing time wasted at the gate during engine start-up, which speeds up aircraft turnaround times.
A previous test at Schiphol showed that sustainable taxiing resulted in 50% less fuel consumption during taxiing, thereby reducing emissions of CO2, nitrogen oxides and ultrafine particles. Considering the distance flown, these fuel savings can reach up to 65% when planes taxi to the Schiphol runway, the airport operator said.
Autonomous towing vehicles are a way for airports and airlines to reduce the environmental impact of ground operations. Others include autonomous baggage carts and buses.
Schiphol Airport, as well as Dutch Air Traffic Control; carriers KLM, Transavia and Corendon Dutch Airlines and ground handling companies dnata and KLM Ground Services, have developed a step-by-step plan to make the standard taxiing procedure sustainable at Schiphol by 2030. The plan is part of a wider European initiative to develop and demonstrate more sustainable gate-to-gate flight operations, applying multiple strategies and solutions to save fuel at every stage of a flight.
The first stage of the plan is to deploy the two TaxiBots in a follow-on pilot program by mid-year. If the pilot phase is successful, it will become the standard mode of operation and the number of aircraft taxiing to and from the runway with a tow will gradually increase. Officials predict that 18% of all flights will be running sustainably after four years, with the practice expanding to more runways by 2025.
Royal Schiphol Group, the airport operator, recently said it was making infrastructure changes to support sustainable taxiing to and from the runway. The project includes markings on the asphalt to ensure that the aircraft stops in the right place and can be disconnected from the towing vehicle. Roads also need to be widened to allow special vehicles to travel back and forth after an aircraft drop without disrupting other aircraft traffic.
At the same time, Smart Airport Systems is developing a zero-emission vehicle, powered by electric fuel or hydrogen.
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