What if airplanes already incorporating a large degree of empowerment could in the future do without human pilots? Airbus has finalized the tests as part of its Attol project. The goal would be to automate the more complex parts of a flight such as takeoff, landing, and taxiing. Ultimately, the giant wants to fly autonomous airliners.

No less than 500 test flights!

In a statement released on June 29, 2020, aerospace giant Airbus said it has completed testing of its autonomous airliner project. This project called Attol for “Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing” concerns as the name indicates take-off, landing and taxiing. These are the three phases of flight assumed by the human pilot and usually too complicated for automatic systems.

Airbus used an A350-1000 XWB in 500 test flights. However, no less than 450 of these thefts were used to collect video recordings for the purpose of training the artificial intelligence. In addition, the final test involved a series of six flights, including five take-offs and landings. It should be noted that the A350-1000 XWB was already equipped with cameras to help pilot’s guide the aircraft on the ground. However, these same cameras were coupled with the artificial intelligence in question, the latter incorporating image recognition technology.

Airbus on all fronts

Ultimately, the system is able to locate the runway, orientate itself and make all course corrections usually made by human pilots, especially in strong winds. In addition, the system acted completely autonomously without depending on satellite links and other equipment on the ground. Ultimately, Airbus therefore hopes to fly autonomous airliners.

The finalization of the Attol project tests is an opportunity to recall another Airbus project. Indeed, the giant is also working on the technology of autonomous flying taxis. The first Alpha One prototype from Vahana (an Airbus subsidiary) made its first test flight in 2018. A year later, a second prototype was born, providing more insight into the on-board experience.

Finally, the Attol project is part of a research program led by Airbus, known as UpNext. The latter incorporates other projects such as Maveric, relating to a more aerodynamic form of aircraft. Another example is Fello’fly, a project that studies fuel savings in a very original way. Indeed, it is about flying a second plane in the wake of the first!

Franck Saebring

A family man and writer, Franck is passionate about anything tech and science-related.