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Pulling a Cessna from its hanger with an iPhone-controlled, self-built electric tug

Pulling a Cessna from its hang...
The finished Aircraft Tug, which is remote-controlled using an iPhone and has enough pulling power to trundle a Cessna 310 out of its hanger
The finished Aircraft Tug, which is remote-controlled using an iPhone and has enough pulling power to trundle a Cessna 310 out of its hanger
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The first iteration of the Aircraft Tug has two 13-inch wheels driven by wheelchair motors
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The first iteration of the Aircraft Tug has two 13-inch wheels driven by wheelchair motors
The first version of the Aircraft Tug failed to move the 5,200 lb Cessna 310
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The first version of the Aircraft Tug failed to move the 5,200 lb Cessna 310
Between the rollers of the the Aircraft Tug is a wheel hitch
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Between the rollers of the the Aircraft Tug is a wheel hitch
The front wheel of a Cessna 310 is locked in place and the Aircraft Tug pulls the aircraft out of its hanger
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The front wheel of a Cessna 310 is locked in place and the Aircraft Tug pulls the aircraft out of its hanger
Two 12 V power chair batteries sit in the cage at the front of the Aircraft Tug, with electronics inbetween
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Two 12 V power chair batteries sit in the cage at the front of the Aircraft Tug, with electronics inbetween
The finished Aircraft Tug, which is remote-controlled using an iPhone and has enough pulling power to trundle a Cessna 310 out of its hanger
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The finished Aircraft Tug, which is remote-controlled using an iPhone and has enough pulling power to trundle a Cessna 310 out of its hanger

Maker Anthony DiPilato recently challenged himself to build a remote-controlled aircraft tug that could pull a Cessna 310 for under a thousand bucks. After a few iterations, and a handful of failures along the way, the iPhone-controlled Aircraft Tug was born.

The Cessna 310 that DiPilato wanted to move weighs in at over 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), too heavy to move by brute force using a towbar. And those tugs you see at airports are much too costly. Building his own tiny tow machine seemed the way to go.

The project began with two 13-inch motor-driven wheels to the rear of a square tubed frame and a pair of trolley wheels out front. Also up front are two 12 V power chair batteries with the control system and electronics inbetween, which includes Arduino Mega brains, a Bluetooth module, cooling fans, a circuit breaker and an amber strobe light for the top of the cage enclosing them.

After coding his own remote control for an iPhone paired to the Tug over Bluetooth, he found that the wheeled creation didn't have enough pulling power to move the Cessna, and so decided to try a tank track design. Frustratingly, the chains came off the sprockets and test number two failed.

The front wheel of a Cessna 310 is locked in place and the Aircraft Tug pulls the aircraft out of its hanger
The front wheel of a Cessna 310 is locked in place and the Aircraft Tug pulls the aircraft out of its hanger

DiPilato replaced the single line of rollers on each side of the frame with double rows, to keep the tracks in line, and cemented neoprene grips to the tracks for extra traction. A wheel hitch between the tracks was also fashioned and installed, where the front wheel of the Cessna pushes down a bar to lift the ramp. This is then locked in position using electromagnets.

After further testing and tweaking, the Tug successfully pulled the Cessna from its hanger – as you can see in the video below. More detailed build notes and more test footage is available via the source link.

A similar commercially-available device, the Trailer Valet RVR, can be used to park trailers by remote control.

Source: Anthony DiPilato

iPhone Controlled Aircraft Tug

2 comments
riczero-b
Is di Pilato a birth name or assumed? If the former this may be nominative determinism at work.
ljaques
OK, cool tool, Anthony. Good luck with marketing them. And I hope you price your models better and build some with trailer balls to compete with the other guy who overpriced the crap out of them.