Blog Home

Pull small planes around with this Arduino Mega-based tug

Arduino TeamJune 12th, 2018

While there are many ways to move an airplane on the ground, Anthony DiPilato decided to create a “tug” of his own.  

The treaded device looks like a tiny tank, and when it slides under the aircraft’s front wheel it locks in place, allowing a 5,200-pound plane to be pulled around courtesy of the RC system’s wheelchair motors. Onboard, an Arduino Mega serves as the brains of the operation along with an H-bridge for motor control. User interface is handled by DiPilato’s iPhone via Bluetooth.

For small aircraft, a towbar is sufficient, but for larger aircraft a power assisted tug is necessary for maneuvering the aircraft. Commercially available aircraft tugs are considerably expensive, so many people use small tractors or golf carts to pull their aircraft.For this project I wanted to see if I could build a remote controlled aircraft tug for a reasonable price.

The goal was to design a remotely controlled tug capable of pulling a Cessna 310 with an estimated weight of 5,200 lbs while keep the cost under $1,000.

Build details can be found in his blog write-up. The Arduino code is available on GitHub, as well as the iOS program. Finally, you can see the tug in action in the first video below, while the second clip shows how the locking mechanism works.