Airbus has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to jointly explore and develop application of IAI's proposed new concept known as "Taxibot" - a tow-bar-less tractor fitted with hardware and software which enable its use for dispatch towing operations under pilot control. An initial evaluation of this concept has shown promising results. However, additional studies and tests are required to validate it.
The Taxibot is expected to completely remove the need to turn on the aircraft's main engines during taxi, although the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU) would need to be activated in order to supply power to cockpit and cabin systems.
Subject to a satisfactory outcome of the assessments during 2009 and subsequent operational demonstrations, preparation of a potential joint-venture (or other form of cooperation) could be created to develop a business which would aim to produce and sell Taxibot tractors to airports. This company would be a venture with three main shareholders: IAI, Airbus, and a tractor manufacturer.
While it is too early to take a decision regarding a future partnership, the MoU with IAI confirms participation of Airbus in the feasibility study, in particular regarding aircraft ground tests which are planned to be demonstrated using the Airbus-owned A340-600 dedicated test aircraft. The MoU assessment phase will also cover regulatory, legal/product liability and environmental evaluation, as well as financial quantification of the viability of Taxibot.
"Reducing costs and emissions at airports is key to improve our industry's eco-efficiency. Airbus and its partner IAI will enter now into a promising technical and environmental assessment," says Christian Scherer, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Future Programmes. "If ultimately successful, such a development would be fully in line with Airbus' eco-efficiency goals across all aspects of commercial aircraft operations," he adds.