Airbus has announced that its Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (ATTOL) project has reached a significant milestone with the successful completion of its first fully automatic vision-based takeoff. The system being tested is designed to use image recognition technology installed on the aircraft to navigate and detect obstacles during an autonomous takeoff. The test included eight takeoffs conducted over a period of four and a half hours at France’s Toulouse-Blagnac airport (TLS). A crew of two pilots and three engineers were onboard.
“The aircraft performed as expected during these milestone tests,” said Airbus test pilot Yann Beaufils. “While completing alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, we engaged the autopilot. 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. The nose of the aircraft began to lift up automatically to take the expected takeoff pitch value and a few seconds later we were airborne.”
Airbus launched ATTOL in June 2018 with the stated goal of understanding “the impact of autonomy on aircraft,” but emphasized that it believes autonomous technologies are best used to support pilots. According to the company, the project’s next steps will be automatic vision-based taxi and landing sequences, which it expects to begin testing in mid-2020.