Airbus carries out first pilotless take-off

Airbus carries out first pilotless take-off

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In total 8 take-offs were performed using image recognition technology installed on the aircraft

Airbus has secured its leading position in the aerospace sector with its recently completed pilotless flight. The fully automatic vision-based take-off was successfully carried out at its hub at Toulouse-Blagnac airport, France.

A total of eight take-offs were completed over a period of four and a half hours. During these trials, two pilots were on board prepared to take over the aircraft if needed.

“The aircraft performed as expected during these milestone tests. While completing alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, we engaged the auto-pilot,” said Airbus Test Pilot Captain Yann Beaufils. 

“We moved the throttle levers to the take-off setting and we monitored the aircraft. It started to move and accelerate automatically maintaining the runway centreline, at the exact rotation speed as entered in the system. The nose of the aircraft began to lift up automatically to take the expected take-off pitch value and a few seconds later we were airborne.”

Rather than using the existing ground technology of Instrument Landing System (ILS), the take-off was performed with image recognition technology installed directly on the aircraft.

The manufacturer plans to trial pilotless taxi this year

The test flights are an important achievement in Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing (ATTOL) project. ATTOL was launched in 2018 in order to gain an understanding of the impact of autonomy on aircraft.

Next up on agenda is an automatic vision-based taxi together with landing sequences scheduled for mid-2020.

The planemaker’s mission is not to focus on autonomy itself as a target, rather it will “explore autonomous technologies alongside other innovations in areas such as materials, electrification, and connectivity,” as stated in a press release.

Alongside new technologies, Airbus aims to address industrial challenges, including the improvement of air traffic management, tackling pilot shortages, and enhancing future operations. The manufacturer is also working on improving aircraft safety.

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