Schiphol Trials ‘TaxiBot’ Semi-Robotic Taxiing System

One of Europe’s busiest airports has used the slowdown in traffic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to test out a new way of getting aircraft from the gate to the runway. TaxiBot, which has been developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), is a pilot-controlled tow vehicle that allows the aircraft’s engines to remain turned off during the taxi, consequently producing fuel savings.

The trial was conducted in partnership with Corendon Dutch Airlines, KLM, Transavia, easyJet and the airline handlers dnata and KLM Ground Services. The tests began by towing an empty Corendon Boeing 737-800 to various runways. If future tests are a success, the trial will continue to an operational aircraft in the next phase.

Corendon 737
The first trial involved an empty Corendon Boeing 737-800 which was towed from a gate to the runway. Schiphol Airport

The equipment’s hybrid diesel and electric engine consumes 95% less fuel than an aircraft’s engines would typically use during taxi. The airport hopes to achieve total fuel savings of 50-85% on consumption during taxiing as the jet engines need to be warned up prior to departure.

Freek van der Pal, managing director of Corendon Dutch Airlines, commented: “This project is a perfect fit within our sustainability policy. Our ambition is to reduce CO2 emission levels and to work together with our partners in chain to make the aviation industry more sustainable. We are also very proud to be the first airline to test out the TaxiBot. That suits our entrepreneurial nature and our pioneering spirit.”

Hassan Charaf, head of innovation at Royal Schiphol Group, added: “This study aligns with our ambition to be the world’s most sustainable airport. We are continuing with this important test despite the situation that the [coronavirus] crisis has caused. I am proud that Schiphol and its partners are investigating what sustainable taxiing at Schiphol can mean.”

The taxi trials form part of a feasibility study into sustainable aircraft ground movement at Schiphol. The research is expected to be completed in the autumn of this year.

The 'TaxiBot' features a hybrid electric diesel engine which consumes 95% less fuel than an aircraft's engines typically would during taxi. Schiphol Airport