Daily US Times, Paris: Airbus has confirmed that one of its test aircraft took off automatically at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in France last December. The confirmation of the pilotless flight marks a significant breakthrough in the progress of autonomous flying.
For years, the concept of pilotless commercial jet flight has been around, but there’s been little concrete evidence to suggest autonomous flying could ever really get off the ground.
The European aerospace company conducted a series of successful autonomous flights while two pilots were standby.
Airbus said the A350-1000 took off automatically for eight times over a period of four and a half hours.
The plane did complete alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, all by the autopilot.
Airbus test pilot Captain Yann Beaufils explained in a statement: “We moved the throttle levers to the takeoff setting and we monitored the aircraft. It started to move and accelerate automatically maintaining the runway centerline, at the exact rotation speed as entered in the system.”
Airbus released a video that shows one of the pilots is seen with his hands away from the controls as the A350-1000 successfully takes off.
The test takeoffs were conducted by a new image recognition technology installed directly on the aircraft, rather than an Instrument Landing System (ILS), which sends radio waves up from the runway, providing pilots with vertical and horizontal guidance.
The company revealed its plane to trial automatic vision-based taxi and landing sequences later this year.
A US software firm Ansys did a survey of 22,000 people in 2019 which indicated that 70% of travelers would be prepared to fly in fully autonomous aircraft.
The move has often been cited as a solution for pilot shortages as well as a way to cut costs.
In present, commercial flights heavily using autopilot while pilots manually flying the aircraft for just a few minutes on average. But the takeoff and landings are done by the human pilot.
Many experts along with general people have raised concerns about the safety of pilotless planes, particularly after the two Boeing 737 MAX jet crashes of 2019, which have been linked to a software issue.
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