Airbus has demonstrated a fully-automated A350-1000 take-off using a vision-based system which tracks the runway centreline and rotates the aircraft without side-stick input from the pilot.
The initial departure with the test system was carried out at Toulouse on 18 December and the crew of five performed eight flights over the course of about 4h 30min.
Image-recognition technology was installed on the aircraft as part of the airframer’s ATTOL project to explore autonomous taxiing, take-off and landing.
Autopilot was engaged once the aircraft was aligned with the departure runway.
“We moved the throttle levers to the take-off setting and we monitored the aircraft,” says test pilot Yann Beaufils.
He says the aircraft automatically detected and tracked the centreline before rotating to the correct pitch at the airspeed logged with the system.
“The aircraft performed as expected during these milestone tests,” he adds.
Airbus will continue to develop the technology and plans to conduct vision-based taxiing and landing towards the middle of this year.
The ATTOL project commenced about 18 months ago.
Airbus says that, while it is looking into autonomous technology, pilots “will remain at the heart of operations” and its intention is to examine the degree to which autonomy can resolve “key industrial challenges”.
“Autonomous technologies are paramount to supporting pilots, enabling them to focus less on aircraft operation and more on strategic decision-making and mission management,” it adds.