The electric taxi system eliminates the use of tugs and jet engines, boasting improved environmental prospects
Developers of an electric taxi system for aircraft, WheelTug plc, has partnered up with IATA’s Ground Operations Automation and Digitalisation Group.
The purpose of the new joint venture is to allow the aviation industry to the improve the efficiency of airside operations.
Currently, the company is in the final stages of certification of its WheelTug system, an electric drive apparatus which is installed into the nose wheels of an aircraft.
By using the new system, pilot controlled taxiing and manoeuvres in gate and terminal areas can operate without the use of tugs or jet engines.
“Every airplane flies at the same speed, it is time on the ground that is the biggest differentiator for profitable operations,” said Isaiah Cox, WheelTug CEO. “WheelTug and e-taxi are here to help airlines optimise their airside operations. Our WheelTug system improves many aspects of airline and airport operations. We have been cooperating with multiple IATA groups for many years, but we decided to become an IATA strategic partner in 2021, as the objectives of IATA and WheelTug are well aligned.”
The firm says that one of the main benefits of its electric taxi system is that aircraft will spend less time on the ground, which saves fuel, reduces engine and brake wear, and eliminates pushback risks and costs.
According to the company, the new system will enable the aviation industry to lower carbon emissions of aircraft ground operations.
Alongside the new taxi system, development of WheelTug Vision is also in process. This is a camera and sensor system that is set to improve pilots situational awareness to reduce the risk of collision.
The firm have also launched the FASTGate (Fast and Safe Turn) innovation project, helping to design and introduce airport gates that are optimised for the electric taxi systems. The collaboration of the airport gate project and both WheelTug schemes is hoped to enable airside automation through integrated data sharing in the future.
Last year, the company doubled the number of positions reserved by various airlines. It has signed letters of intent from over 25 carriers which represent over 2000 aircraft. By early 2022, WheelTug plans to have entered service with Boeing 737NG aircraft.