How an autonomous aircraft taxiing system could save money | Airlines

With technological developments promising changes in the way the aviation industry operates, we could well see a future where aircraft will be able to move autonomously on the ground – all with the help of an innovative concept that only uses the auxiliary power unit (APU).

Explaining the product in basic terms, Jan Vana, the director of WheelTug, said that its innovation helps the aircraft move forward and backward autonomously, eliminating the need for a tug.

“It is a special motor that is embedded in the nosewheel of the aircraft, and it is powered by the APU,” Vana told AeroTime during an interview at the World Aviation Festival 2023. “WheelTug is operating within the […] electric taxi [market].”

According to the Czech executive, the pilots operate the device by pushing a button on a small panel in the cockpit, allowing them to turn the aircraft at the gate as well.

“There are also a couple of lights that indicate the status of the system and that is it,” Vana said, wrapping up a complex concept in simple terms.

“There are multiple benefits for the airlines and airports,” Vana added.

One of these benefits is that by eliminating the need for a tug, airlines save a lot of time while the aircraft is on the ground. Vana highlighted that not only do pilots sometimes have to wait for a tug to be available, but the process of connecting and disconnecting the tug can take up valuable time.

And while every minute saved has a different value for different types of airlines, Vana noted that this was especially the case “for low-cost carriers, which fly short sectors,” since less time spent on the ground means more time in the air.

“We can save a lot of time,” Vana added.

Vana said that with the help of WheelTug, which will allow aircraft to move across the ramp aided by the APU and without using the engines, passengers will be able to disembark from both exits as the innovation…

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