Airbus completes pilotless take-offs for first time

Cathy Adams
Airbus has completed the first automatic take-off: Airbus

Airbus has completed a pilotless take-off for the first time.

The European planemaker said that it had completed the first fully automatic vision-based take-off at Toulouse-Blagnac airport, its hub.

Last month, the test crew conducted eight take-offs on autopilot, with two pilots ready to take over if necessary.

Photos from the take-offs shows one pilot with his hands on his knees while the plane is pitching up.

The plane uses image recognition technology installed on the aircraft for the automatic take-off, rather than using existing ground technology.

Airbus test pilot captain Yann Beaufils said: “We moved the throttle levers to the takeoff setting and we monitored the aircraft. 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.”

Airbus said it would trial pilotless taxi and landing sequences by the middle of this year.

The automatic take-off is the latest step in Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Take-off and Landing (ATTOL) project.

Last summer, the planemaker announced it had teamed up with France’s RATP transport operator to explore the viability of electric “vertical take-off and landing” (VTOL) vehicles in time for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The feasibility study will look at things such as design, maintenance, urban integration, infrastructure and low-altitude air traffic management.

Airbus and RATP want to make flying taxis “accessible to as many people as possible”.

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