National carrier Air India has become the world’s first airline to deploy a Taxibot on an A320 while passengers were onboard.
Taxibot is a semi-robotic aircraft tractor that is controlled by a pilot to take aircraft from the parking bay to the runway.
The equipment, developed by Israel Aerospace Industries, allows aircraft to be towed with their engines switched off, which reduces fuel costs and wear and tear.
The aircraft’s ignition is only turned on when it reaches the runway. Taxibots are only used by Air India for departing flights currently.
Air India’s chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani flagged off flight AI665 to Mumbai on Tuesday morning, which was taken to the runway at Delhi airport by Taxibot.
Lohani told The Economic Times: “The use of Taxibot on the Air India aircraft at Indira Gandhi International Airport today morning is the first such usage on any Airbus aircraft worldwide. Really an achievement to be proud of. A giant step forward towards a cleaner environment.”
A spokesperson for Air India told the newspaper that the use of Taxibots could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 85% during taxiing.
By providing efficient pushbacks, the robots could also decongest boarding gates and the apron area.