Self-Driving Aircraft Towing Vehicles: A Preliminary Report

Morris, Robert (NASA Ames Research Center) | Chang, Mai Lee (Johnson Space Center) | Archer, Ronald (Lockheed Martin) | Cross, Ernest V (Lockheed Martin) | Thompson, Shelby (Lockheed Martin) | Franke, Jerry (Lockheed Martin) | Garrett, Robert (Lockheed Martin) | Malik, Waqar (University of California-Santa Cruz Affiliated Research Center) | McGuire, Kerry (NASA Johnson Space Center) | Hemann, Garrett (Carnegie Mellon University)

AAAI Conferences 

We introduce an application of self-driving vehicle technology to the problem of towing aircraft at busy airports from gate to runway and runway to gate. Autonomous towing can be supervised by human ramp- or ATC controllers, pilots, or ground crew. The controllers provide route information to the tugs, assisted by an automated route planning system. The planning system and tower and ground controllers work in conjunction with the tugs to make tactical decisions during operations to ensure safe and effective taxiing in a highly dynamic environment. We argue here for the potential for significantly reducing fuel emissions, fuel costs, and community noise, while addressing the added complexity of air terminal operations by increasing efficiency and reducing human workload. This paper describes work-in-progress for developing concepts and capabilities for autonomous engines-off taxiing using towing vehicles.