Like it or not, the idea of pilotless airline travel is moving forward.
Airbus, the French airplane manufacturer, successfully completed a series of tests Monday using a self-flying A350-1000 XWB jet with no pilot to practice taxiing, takeoff and landing – normally all maneuvers performed by a pilot.
As Business Insider noted, “the project’s successful completion opens the door for fully autonomous flights as autopilot already handles most of the functions while airborne.”
And make no mistake, that door is open.
In June, Airbus had pilots in the cockpit of an A-350 as backup, but they were reduced to spectators as they watched the self-flying plane successfully complete phases of the flight while in the air. These are portions of the flight that are normally performed on autopilot anyway.
Taxiing, takeoff and landing without a pilot is next-level stuff.
This project, known as the Autonomous Taxi, Take-off, and Landing (ATTOL) project, began in 2018.
The first successful autonomous test occurred in December of 2019 when pilots lined the plane up on the runway and then watched as computers took over and navigated the plane to take off.
How far away we are from true autonomous flight remains to be seen.
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