Airbus has performed the first fully automatic vision-based take-off with a test aircraft at Toulouse-Blagnac airport.
The test crew, which comprised of two pilots, two flight test engineers and a test flight engineer took off at around 1015 on December 18, 2019 and conducted a total of 8 take-offs over a period of four and a half hours.
Airbus test pilot Captain Yann Beaufils said, “The aircraft performed as expected during these tests. While completing alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, we engaged the autopilot.
“We moved the throttle levers to the take-off setting and monitored the aircraft. It started to move and accelerate automatically maintaining the runway centre 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 take-off pitch value and a few seconds later we were airborne.”
The test aircraft for the automatic take-off was fitted with an autonomous system that used cameras and image recognition to guide it during take-off
Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing project was launched in June 2018 and is one of the projects being developed by the company to better understand the impact of autonomy on aircraft. The next steps will see automatic vision-based taxi and landing sequences taking place by mid-2020.
The company’s stated aim is to develop autonomous technologies with the pilot “at the heart of operations” alongside innovation in other areas such as materials, electrification and connectivity to address the key industrial challenges. It has identified these challenges as improving air traffic management, addressing pilot shortages, enhancing future operations and improving aircraft safety.
Autonomous technologies, Airbus said, should be paramount to supporting pilots, enabling them to focus less on aircraft operation and more on strategic decision-making and mission management.