Clean Tech

Robots on the runway

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on November 20, 2018

Now, TaxiBots at Delhi airport reduce noise, air pollution, and help save precious aviation fuel

Every action counts when it comes to caring for the environment and that is what the aviation industry in India, which is the third largest domestic civil aviation market in the world, is doing. It is taking small but significant steps to help reduce air and noise pollution.

In October, the Israel Aerospace Industries-designed and TLD, France-manufactured TaxiBots (taxiing robots) were introduced at Delhi airport. The two robots will help airlines push their aircraft to a point short of the runway where they can start their engines for take-off.

Without the robots, the aircraft has to be tugged by a ground vehicle to the Tug Detach Point (TDP), which is normally reached within 1.5 to 2 minutes.

Following this, the aircraft has to switch on its engines and taxi to the runway. The engine having to start early for a flight means that the aircraft uses expensive aviation turbine fuel (ATF), leading to both noise and air pollution as carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Delaying the switch-on

KSU Aviation Private Ltd, the company that has introduced TaxiBots at Delhi airport, estimates that a TaxiBot helps delay the switching on of an aircraft engine by 10 to 12 minutes.

“With TaxiBot, an aircraft can start engines close to the main runway. The engines will be turned on shortly before take-off to enable a pilot to do warm-up and checks,” says Ashwani Khanna, Consultant to the project.

A TaxiBot is essentially a semi-robotic tow truck or what Khanna calls an alternate aircraft taxiing device. Khanna further says, “TaxiBot is the only solution which is certified in the world,” adding that India is the only country in the world where this is being used commercially.

At the moment, SpiceJet, IndiGo and Jet Airways have signed up for TaxiBots. Currently there are only two TaxiBots operating at Delhi airport but the promoters hope to scale up to 40 Taxibots over four years. These will be placed in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad airports.

According to the company’s estimates, the six metro airports contribute 65 per cent of the Air Traffic Movement (ATM) or movement of an aircraft for take-off, emitting as much as 6,03,000 tonnes of CO2. They also consumed as much as 1,90,000 tonnes of aviation fuel, costing close to $240 million when they taxied for departure in 2018 alone.

Huge plus for environment

Given that a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A-320 aircraft, on an average, takes about 11 to 13 minutes to taxi, it is likely to burn over 200 litres of ATF. So, using a TaxiBot could translate into a huge saving for the environment.

The promoters claim that the use of a TaxiBot also helps cut back on emissions by other aircraft. This is because if an aircraft using a TaxiBot is able to clear the parking stand earlier than a conventional push-back, it makes way for another aircraft to dock faster.

This increases the efficiency of the airport and also cuts back on emissions that are caused by an aircraft that’s waiting for an empty parking bay after it has landed.

Published on November 20, 2018

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