Airbus Testing Autonomous Technology On A350

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Airbus has announced it is accelerating work on its autonomous flight systems. This is part of Airbus’ broader goal to improve operational efficiency and safety on aircraft.

Airbus is testing visual sensing technology to assist pilots in facilitating automatic diversions and landings. This technology would be available if a flight crew were unable to operate the aircraft and land it safely.

“DragonFly” is the project’s name and involves an Airbus A350-1000 demonstrator. Airbus has used demonstrator aircraft with older and new airframes to test technology. However, this project is just one of the latest initiatives by the European aircraft manufacturer.

The project saw initial flight testing begin in July 2022 and will continue to occur throughout this calendar year. Airbus listed the tasks and their correlation to computer algorithms essential to support the assistance processes on landing and taxiing. This is why the aircraft features three additional cameras.

The three additional sensors are located below the cockpit – Airbus

An example of the testing is playing out a scenario where the pilots are incapable of operating the aircraft. The plane will generate a new flight plan and safety divert to an airport. It takes into fuel, airspace, terrain, cruising altitude, available airfields and more.

Airbus further notes that such a program has positive ramifications for travel moving forward and aiding pilots in emergencies.

It’s still in the early test phases. However, Airbus says “in time”, they would see it being accessible at airports that may not have the technology for automatic landings.

Meanwhile, away from the air, the aircraft manufacturer has been exploring support while taxiing. Airbus is testing this through audio alerts, assisted speed control and guidance to runways.

Airbus UpNext will enter a crucial final few months of testing with DragonFly.

Daniel Fowkes
13 Jan 2023
· Aircraft 

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