Taxibot Progress

The prototype narrow-body Taxibot vehicle is currently undergoing tests at Chateauroux Airport, France. (All images – TLD)

TLD’s semi-robotic narrow-body prototype Taxibot vehicle has taken a step closer to operation.

The prototype narrow-body Taxibot vehicle is currently undergoing tests at Chateauroux Airport, France. (All images – TLD)

After more than two years of development, Taxibot, a next-generation towbar-less tow tractor, created by a partnership between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), TLD and Airbus, has moved a step closer to being declared operational.
The semi-robotic tractor is designed for dispatch towing from gate to runway.  The mechanism that connects the aircraft to the tow tractor allows an aircraft to be manoeuvred by its pilots from their cockpit while the aircraft’s engines are switched off, thereby saving significant amounts of fuel.
The mechanism that connects the aircraft to the tow tractor allows an airliner to be manoeuvred by its pilots from their cockpit while the aircraft’s engines are switched off, thereby saving significant amounts of fuel.

Readers will have seen several articles about its progress in Airports International over the last two years and those that attended inter airport Europe in Munich in October 2011 may have seen the Taxibot prototype, designed for narrow-body aircraft, on display there.  Taxibot won the Innovation Award for the interRamp category at the show.
Last autumn, the Taxibot Prototype for Single Aisle Aircraft went back to the TLD factory for some harness modifications and new hardware integration.
The first autonomous roll-out took place at TLD’s Montlouis-sur-Loire factory in February; at the same time as a critical design review (CDR) of the wide-body vehicle took place.  All the Taxibot partners participated in the CDR: main partners Airbus and IAI, risk-sharing subcontractors TLD and Siemens, and IAI’s engineering subcontractor Ricador.
Nicolas Vermalle, DTV Project Director for TLD Europe, told Airports International: “The wide-body prototype assembly will start in September 2012; it’s expected to be on its wheels for the first roll-out in February 2013.”
In April 2012, the narrow-body prototype was shipped to Chateauroux Airport, France, to start its test programme.
The first nose landing gear clamping took place on April 19, 2012.

A dedicated Airbus A320, leased by IAI, was used for the trials.  Mr Vermalle explained: “After successful solo driving tests, we did our first nose landing gear clamping on April 19.  The first dispatch towing will take place in June, after completion of IAI’s Vectronic Software integration.
“The outcome of these first tests was very promising, with a very good dynamic behaviour, a smooth, accurate and powerful electric drive line, and excellent [four-wheel steer/drive] manoeuvrability.”  The tests are scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.  A special press day will be organised in late September in Chateauroux, to demonstrate how Taxibot works.