Commercial aircraft engines are optimized for maximum efficiency in flight, not for taxiing around the airport. During a typical 17-minute taxi, a Boeing 747 can consume one ton (1250 liters) of fuel and emit 3.2 tons of CO2. Worldwide, annual taxiing costs could top $8 billion in 2020.
To reduce fuel costs, CO2 emissions, and airport noise levels, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed TaxiBot, a hybrid-electric aircraft tractor that can tow a fully loaded aircraft while its main engines are off. During a typical taxi from the gate to the runway, TaxiBot consumes just 25–30 liters of fuel and emits less than 60 kg of CO2.
IAI used Model-Based Design with MATLAB® and Simulink® to develop the TaxiBot control software, which has been certified to DO-178B Level B.
“Controls development with Model-Based Design is exceptionally efficient,” says Zeev Gabbin, software manager for the TaxiBot project at IAI. “One engineer can write and model the requirements, generate code, and then integrate the code and verify it via hardware-in-the-loop testing. On projects without Model-Based Design, code implementation and integration took us three to four times longer.”