While we all know that most of a plane’s functions are handled by autopilot while the flight is in the air, Airbus has taken it to the next level by successfully testing its first autonomous pilot-free aircraft.
The Airbus airplane has successfully finished a successful landing and take-off as well as a number of complicated maneuvers autonomously.
The A350-1000 XWB flew without the help of a pilot, with an onboard camera assisting the new technology. The flight was a testbed that successfully completed by opening the doors for fully autonomous flights.
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.’
More than 500 flights were conducted with the new Airbus A350-1000 XWB. The flights used an ‘image recognition technology’ so the plane can essentially be able to ‘see’ through its own pair of eyes. This tech, combined with the exterior cameras of the airplane, allowed the aircraft to complete the flight, taxi, take-off, and landing.
About 450 of the flights took place to gather raw video data 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.
Back in December, the first milestone took place 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, flying up in the air 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.
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.
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 the standard programming of TV shows and movies.