Airbus has successfully performed something that few would have ever thought possible – the first ever fully automated take-off of a large passenger aircraft.
While there were pilots onboard, everything was being controlled by the aircraft’s own computer systems and sensors.
“We moved the throttle levers to the take-off setting and we monitored the aircraft,” said Airbus test pilot Captain Yann Beaufils.
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.”
In video of the take-off released by Airbus, you can see the reluctance of one of the pilots when letting go of the controls as the aircraft barrels down the runway. He then receives a reassuring pat on the arm from his co-pilot as the A350 aircraft starts to take-off.
The aircraft manufacturer conducted the flight at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in France.
Although there are enough navigational aids at or around an airport to assist with automated aircraft movement, the team behind this take-off used new image recognition technology.
But there’s good news for those who fear the idea of travelling on aircraft being flown by a computer.
Airbus’ 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,” Airbus said in a statement.
“At the same time, Airbus is leveraging these opportunities to further improve aircraft safety while ensuring today’s unprecedented levels are maintained.”
The manufacturer’s next test will be automated taxiing from gate to runway – something a little less daunting for those involved and nervous travellers.