Malta-linked project simplifies aircraft taxiing procedure for pilots

An intelligent sidestick to help pilots steer aircraft on the ground has been developed by a research team involving the University of Malta

Researchers have developed an intelligent sidestick to help pilots navigate while steering an aircraft on the ground
Researchers have developed an intelligent sidestick to help pilots navigate while steering an aircraft on the ground

Steering an aircraft on the ground is a difficult manual operation but University of Malta researchers have developed an intelligent control system to simplify the procedure for pilots.

The sidestick allows the pilot to control aircraft speed and direction by taking the pilot's input commands and converting them to conventional steering angle, brake and thrust commands.

All these commands were previously made manually, in order to taxi an airline. Taxiing is the process of an aircraft manoeuvring on the ground, under its own power, prior to take-off or after landing until it is parked.

All of this is difficult to carry out especially during low visibility conditions, and is usually carried out based on the airliner’s visual cue, experience and judgement.

But now, researchers at the UOM’s Institute of Aerospace Technologies, together with QuAero Ltd, have developed the active sidestick to enable aircraft ground operations run smoother.

The UOM said in a statement that the sidestick can also be used when more eco-friendly taxi methods, such as electric taxi operations, become more common.

The research team has been working on the project for a year and has since than implemented a first prototype of the method and submitted a patent at the UK Intellectual Property Office to protect the technology.

A number of pilots have also been volunteering to participate in the evaluation phase.

The project is financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology.

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