Airplane Transporting System (ATS)
OSU Revolutionizing Airplane Taxiing
Oklahoma State University’s New Product Development Center signed a contract with ATS World Wide to develop a revolutionary way for planes to taxi.
In the past, either (1) pilots and/or tug operators pushed or pulled aircraft to/from gates or (2) the cockpit crew used the engines and the aircraft steering mechanism to move the plane.
The new Airplane Transporting System will maneuver these awkward vehicles using underground track mechanisms to perform this transition. In a pre-engineered pattern, the ATS will automatically transport planes from the runway to the gates and back. With the engines shut off and the use of a consistent, safe lane, the OSU/ATS innovation will deliver significant benefits. As Vince Howie, the Aerospace & Defense, project manager for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, explained:
“The ATS is going to lower fuel consumption, decrease noise, reduce harmful emissions, eliminate collisions and at the same time, increase airport capacity without adding a single gate or building a new terminal.”
Installation will increase airport capacity by as much as 30% with no other capital projects.
One would expect that such a routine function, performed thousands of times daily in the US alone, would not be a source of significant problems. That is an incorrect assumption as demonstrated by this small sampling of recent incidents:
- Massive A380 jet clips, spins smaller plane at JFK (the video of an RJ spinning after the A-380 is unbelievable!)
While these incidents do not usually involve significant injuries, the data tends to support the notion that the frequency is not inconsequential. The damage to the aircraft usually requires significant, costly and time-consuming repairs, thus justifying the investment in the ATS installation on a simple cost savings aside from the equally compelling environmental improvements.
Another possible solution to these expensive PHIs has been proposed with a “TCAS” for ground operations, but it does not provide the environmental benefits of ATS plus it depends on a high level of equipage on aircraft (as ADS-B out has shown, that may be difficult to achieve!)
The OSU design challenge involves some substantial issues:
- Protection from collisions with multiple aircraft maneuvering at the same time in the same space.
- Little or no increase in the time consumed as opposed to current operations.
- Little or no diminution of the reliability as compared to the existing methods; ATS failures/outages would strand aircraft.
- Capability to maintain the ATS on an on-going basis; shut down for regular repairs, other than during periods of zero-to-low flights.
- All weather capabilities, especially, the capability of the underground system to function in heavy snow.
- Strategy to deal with the human and physical resources previously dedicated to this function.
- Connectivity/communication with the ATC ground controllers.
- Initial installation without disruption of the existing operations.
As Robert Taylor, OSU research professor and director of the NPDC, noted the project will give students a chance to work with professionals in the field and get experience working with a team of engineers. “This is fantastic for OSU students in engineering,” Taylor said. The above list may well assure that the OSU super computer is fully utilized to deal with these factors, many of which are complexly linked.
As with EMAS, the ingenuity of the academic and private sectors created a practical, cost-efficient and safe solution. Go you OSU!!!