Indian airports to go green, save fuel by using taxibots to tow aircraft

Aviation watchdog DGCA has allowed the use of taxibots -- a semi-robotic vehicle -- to tow aircraft, whose engines will be shut, from the parking bay to the runway holding, curbing pollution at airports and saving fuel.     

The Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in New Delhi will be the first to have these vehicles with the trial runs to be conducted for Jet Airways and SpiceJet aircraft. These vehicles will be remote-controlled by pilots until the runway point.    

The trial-run of taxibots would start with aircraft of Jet Airways and SpiceJet soon. It is expected that by mid-October, it will be put to commercial use, KSU Aviation, the operator of the vehicle, said.  

Globally, in the airline space, 80 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted every year because of aircraft taxiing, the spokesperson said referring to a study. 

Eighty-five per cent of the fuel consumed during taxiing can be checked with the use of a taxibot. Other advantages include a reduction in noise levels by 60 per cent. Taxibots could also reduce foreign object damage by 50 per cent since the engine remains shut, as per some independent studies. 

The Civil Aviation Ministry last week informed Parliament that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has "accepted a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supplemental type certificate that allows taxibots to tow an aircraft from the parking bay to the runway holding point without using the main engines...".

A supplemental type certificate is a document issued when an applicant has received the FAA's approval to modify an aeronautical product from its original design.

The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which has developed these alternative taxiing vehicles, has already announced an agreement with India-based KSU Aviation for use of taxibots.

"These are alternative taxiing solution and would be used for towing only single-aisle aircraft. It would be sort of remote controlled by the pilot from the aircraft till the runway holding point and all the while the engine would remain shut, thus bringing down pollution," the KSU spokesperson said.

The first taxibot will be brought to Chennai this month and then transported to Delhi. In all, orders for 40 of these vehicles have been placed, he said, adding that airport operators in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru have evinced keen desire in adopting this vehicle.

The spokesperson said that as of now they are determining and finalising the operational procedures for use of taxibot at the IGI airport.