In order to taxi a commercial passenger aircraft – such as the Airbus A350 or A380 – pilots need to use multiple controls. These include the tiller (to steer the nose wheel landing gear), the throttle levers (to adjust the thrust of each engine) and the brake pedals (to slow down the aircraft). This operation can be demanding for pilots, particularly at large airports and in low visibility conditions.
The Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta is currently investigating an alternative method of taxiing commercial aircraft which relies on the use of an active control side stick. This method would allow pilots to control the aircraft’s speed and heading on the ground using a single control. An active side stick can be programmed to give the crew haptic feedback in response to the aircraft’s state. For instance, if the aircraft is unintentionally deviating from the taxiway centreline, a force can be applied to the side stick to ‘nudge’ the pilot to keep the aircraft on the centreline.Furthermore, the active side stick can be reconfigured for use in flight as well as in emerging engineless/electric taxi operations.
The work described above is being carried out as part of the ACSAGO research and innovation project. This project is a collaboration between the Institute of Aerospace Technologies, the Department of Cognitive Sciences, and QuAero Ltd (a Maltese aviation consultancy company). The project is 30 months long and is being coordinated by Dr Ing. Jason Gauci from the Institute of Aerospace Technologies.
ACSAGO (R&I-2017-032-T) is financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the FUSION: R&I Technology Development Programme.