Airbus Announces First Fully Automatic Vision-based Take-off

The first fully automatic vision-based take-off using an Airbus Family test aircraft took place on December 18. (Photos: Airbus)

Airbus has announced that it successfully performed the first fully automatic vision-based take-off using an Airbus Family test aircraft at Toulouse-Blagnac airport on December 18.

The test crew comprising of two pilots, two flight test engineers and a test flight engineer conducted eight take-offs over a period of four and a half hours.

Airbus test pilot captain, Yann Beaufils, commented: “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. 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 relying on an Instrument Landing System (ILS), the existing ground equipment technology currently used by in-service passenger aircraft in airports around the world where the technology is present, this automatic take-off was enabled by image recognition technology installed directly on the aircraft.

Airbus said automatic take-off is an important milestone in its Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing (ATTOL) project. Launched in June 2018, ATTOL is one of the technological flight demonstrators being tested by Airbus in order to understand the impact of autonomy on aircraft. The next steps in the project will see automatic vision-based taxi and landing sequences taking place by mid-2020.

Airbus’ explained that its mission is not to move ahead with autonomy as a target in itself, but instead to explore autonomous technologies alongside other innovations in areas such as materials, electrification and connectivity. By doing so, is said it will be able to analyse the potential of these technologies in addressing the key industrial challenges of tomorrow, including improving air traffic management, addressing pilot shortages and enhancing future operations. At the same time, it said it is leveraging these opportunities to further improve aircraft safety while ensuring today’s unprecedented levels are maintained.