- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus Tests New Pilot Assist Technologies on an A350-1000 Aircraft
The technologies, known as DragonFly, include automated emergency diversion in cruise and automatic landing and taxi assistance. The tests are aimed at evaluating the feasibility of further autonomous flight systems for safer and more efficient operations.
On Thursday (January 12, 2023), Airbus announced that their wholly-owned subsidiary, Airbus UpNext, has started testing new, on the ground, and inflight pilot assistance technologies in support of safer and more efficient operations. The technologies, known as DragonFly include automated emergency diversion in cruise, as well as automatic landing and taxi assistance, and are being tested on an Airbus A350-1000. During testing, the technologies were able to assist pilots inflight, managing a simulated incapacitated crew member event, and during landing and taxiing operations. While considering flight zones, terrain and weather conditions, the aircraft successfully generated a new flight trajectory plan, while communicating with both ATC and the airline Operations Control Centre.
In Thursday’s announcement, Airbus UpNext’s Head of the DragonFly Demonstrator, Isabelle Lacaze, said,
“These tests are one of several steps in the methodical research of technologies to further enhance operations and improve safety. Inspired by biomimicry, the systems being tested have been designed to identify features in the landscape that enable an aircraft to 'see' and safely maneuver autonomously within its surroundings, in the same way that dragonflies are known to have the ability to recognise landmarks.”
Airbus UpNext also explored taxi assistance technologies, which were tested in real-time at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. The technology provides crew with audio obstacle alerts, assisted speed control, and guidance to the runway using a dedicated map. Additionally, Airbus UpNext is launching a project to prepare the next generation of computer vision-based algorithms, with the goal of advancing landing and taxi assistance. The tests were conducted in cooperation with Airbus subsidiaries and external partners including Cobham, Collins Aerospace, Honeywell, Onera and Thales. DragonFly was also partially funded by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC).