Industry Airbus demonstrates first fully automatic take-off

Airbus has successfully demonstrated the first fully automatic take-off at Toulouse-Blagnac.

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The first fully automatic vision-based take-off was performed by an Airbus A350-1000 from the Airbus Family test aircraft fleet. Two pilots, two flight test engineers and a test flight engineer took off from Toulouse and conducted eight take-offs afterwards.

With the new system ATTOL (Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off & Landing), Airbus wants to use image recognition installed directly on the aircraft. That means, that an Instrument Landing System (ILS) or other ground equipment technology would not be necessary.

“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,” said Airbus Test Pilot Captain Yann Beaufils. “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 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.”

Airbus wrote in a statement: "Automatic take-off is an important milestone in Airbus’ 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."

The manufacturer added, that it seeks to explore autonomous technologies alongside other innovations in areas like materials, electrification and connectivity. Airbus also said, that its mission would not be to move ahead with autonomy as a target in itself.

With new data, Airbus is able to analyse the potential of these technologies in addressing key industrial challenges of tomorrow. Areas like air traffic management, pilot shortages and enhancing future operations are on the agenda for Airbus.

"For autonomous technologies to improve flight operations and overall aircraft performance, pilots will remain at the heart of operations. Autonomous technologies are paramount to supporting pilots, enabling them to focus less on aircraft operation and more on strategic decision-making and mission management," the manufacturer concluded.

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