Airbus tested a full unmanned flight on an A350

With its Attol project, Airbus has succeeded in automating the most complex parts of a flight, namely takeoff, landing and taxiing. The next planes could operate entirely unmanned.

Already highly automated, airliners could soon do without pilots. Airbus has just successfully concluded its  Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (Attol) project, or “autonomous taxiing, take-off and landing  ”  in French. These are the three phases of a flight usually managed by the pilot, because they are too complex for automatic systems. The system developed by Airbus made it possible to perform all of these maneuvers without depending on satellite links or ground equipment.

Airbus tested a full unmanned flight on an A350 | En24 News

The aircraft manufacturer chose to work on an A350-1000 XWB because it is already equipped with numerous cameras to help pilots guide the aircraft on the ground. It is these cameras, coupled with artificial intelligence equipped with image recognition technology , which were used to guide the aircraft.

A series of six successful autonomous flights

Airbus carried out a test on a total of 500 flights, including 450 to collect video recordings to train artificial intelligence. The successful final test was a series of six flights, each including five takeoffs and landings. The system not only manages to locate the runway and orient itself, but also takes care of all course corrections usually made by pilots, for example in windy conditions .

Airbus is not only interested in autonomous flight. The Attol project is part of a research program at Airbus called  UpNext . It includes, among other things, the Maveric project, which is developing a more aerodynamic form of plane, as well as fello’fly, which studies fuel savings by flying a second plane in the wake of the first. The next few years could therefore bring many changes to airliners.