An Airbus A350 has successfully completed a fully autonomous take-off, with pilots sat in the cockpit ready to take over in case of any issues.
Airbus was testing new autonomous flight technology, which allows an aircraft to detect its surrounding environment using sensors, cameras, radar and a laser-based detection method, as well as powerful on-board computers. It can then use the information to navigate through its surroundings.
The company has shared a sneak peek inside the cockpit as two pilots sat overseeing the aircraft, which performed the automated take-off, alongside exterior shots of the plane as it left the runway.
At one point, one of the pilots is seen automatically reaching for equipment, ready to take over, but his colleague advises he hold back, as the aircraft successfully completes the test.
According to Airbus, more "vision-based taxi and landing sequences are expected to take place sometime in 2020".
The idea isn't to replace pilots in the future; instead, it's to address ongoing industry issues such as pilot shortages, especially with the demand for commercial flights increasing – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that air traffic will double by 2037.
The company also says that the move could "further improve aircraft safety while ensuring today’s unprecedented safety levels are maintained".
Airbus has launched the Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off and Landing (ATTOL) project, working with tech team Wayfinder who have developed the autonomous systems for the aircraft, including large commercial aircraft.
Automated take-off and landing isn't something completely new in the industry.
Sébastien Giuliano, ATTOL Project Lead, explained: "Many aircraft are already able to land automatically. But they’re reliant on external infrastructure like Instrument Landing System (ILS) or GPS signals.
"ATTOL aims to make this possible solely using on-board technology to maximise efficiency and to reduce infrastructure cost."
Arne Stoschek, Wayfinder Project Executive, said: "The key challenge for self-piloting capabilities is how the system reacts to unforeseen events. That’s the big jump from automated to autonomous."
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