It’s no secret that most of plane’s functions are handled by autopilot while the flight is in the air, however Airbus has taken it to the next level by successfully testing its first autonomous pilot-free aircraft.
The Airbus aeroplane has successfully completed a successful take-off and landing – as well as a number of complicated manoeuvres – without the help of a pilot.
The A350-1000 XWB flew autonomously, with an onboard camera assisting the new technology. The flight was a testbed that successfully completed by opening the doors for fully autonomous flights.
More than 500 flights were conducted with the new Airbus A350-1000 XWB, by using ‘image recognition technology’ in order for the plane to essentially be able to ‘see’ through its own pair of eyes. This, combined with the exterior cameras of the aeroplane, allowed the aircraft to complete the flight, from taxi, take-off and landing.
Around 450 of the flights took place to gather raw video data in order for the algorithms to be fine-tuned, while a series of six test flights took place, each one including five take-offs and landings per run.
The first mile stone took place back in December, when the Airbus first successfully demonstrated autonomous take-offs from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France. The pilots simply had to line the plane up on the runway, before sitting back and watching it jet off down the runway, lifting up without any assistance.
Any number of factors can take a plane off course, such as wind, which is when the pilot has to step in and correct the plane’s head.
The project, which was titled the Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (ATTOL) project, was set up by Airbus in a bid to discover how autonomous technologies can help pilots focus less on the operations of the aircraft, and more on ‘strategic decision making and mission management.’
Passengers onboard the A350-1000 XWB will even be able to access the aircraft’s take off and landings from the unique cameras attached to the plane, as part of standard programming of TV shows and movies.
A total of 30 autonomous landings were successfully achieved across six different flights, proving Airbus could collect the right data to demonstrate the viability of its technology.