MIAMI — An Airbus A350-1000 executed a series of takeoffs using autonomous technology by computer vision systems, bringing pilotless commercial jet flight one step closer to become a reality.
In a press release, Airbus said that the tests were conducted at Toulouse-Blagnac airport on December 18, 2019. The crew of five that included two Pilots, two Flight Engineers, and a Test Flight Engineer staged eight takeoffs during a four-hour period.
“While completing alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, we engaged the autopilot. We moved the throttle levers to the takeoff setting, and we monitored the aircraft. It started to move and accelerate automatically, maintaining the runway center line, at the exact rotation speed as entered in the system. The nose of the aircraft began to lift up automatically to take the expected takeoff pitch value, and a few seconds later, we were airborne,” said Airbus Test Pilot Captain Yann Beaufils.
Airbus has been investing in autonomous flying projects. Back in 2018, the airframer tested Vahana, an autonomous electric flying taxi developed by its Silicon Valley-based A³ lab. Also, during the 2017 Geneva Motor Show, Airbus and Italdesign unveiled Pop.Up, an autonomous ground and air passenger modular vehicle concept.
Airbus said the automatic takeoff test is another milestone for these major efforts. Dubbed the Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing (ATTOL) project, these series of flight testing are intended to assess how the new technology may contribute to improve the air traffic management, address Pilot shortages, and further improve aircraft safety.
The next steps in the ATTOL project are automated taxi and landing sequences, set to take place later this year.