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Airbus to test autonomous features on Flightlab helicopter

Professional Engineering

The Airbus Vertex project will test several features for autonomous flight (Credit: Airbus)
The Airbus Vertex project will test several features for autonomous flight (Credit: Airbus)

Sensors and algorithms will provide situational awareness and obstacle detection for an Airbus helicopter as part of a project testing autonomous features.

Pilots will use a touchscreen and head worn display for inflight monitoring and control during the programme, known as Vertex. The Flightlab helicopter will also feature fly-by-wire for enhanced auto-pilot.

“The combination of these technologies will enable a system that can manage navigation and route preparation, automatic take-off and landing, as well as following a predefined flight path,” an Airbus announcement said. The aerospace giant said the features could simplify mission preparation and management, reduce pilot workload, and increase safety.

The incremental integration of the technologies onto Flightlab has begun ahead of a complete demonstration in 2023.

“We are excited by the potential that the Vertex demonstrator project has to offer,” said Airbus chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini.

“By using our platform-agnostic flying laboratory to mature these technologies, we have an agile and efficient test bed that will support the development of future autonomous systems that could later equip Airbus’ current helicopter range and eVTOL platforms.”

The project announcement added: “Airbus’ mission is not to move ahead with autonomy as a target in itself, but to explore autonomous technologies alongside other technological innovations. In doing so, Airbus is able to analyse the potential to enhance future operations, and at the same time leverage these opportunities to further improve aircraft safety.”

Vertex is managed by Airbus UpNext, an Airbus subsidiary created to fast-track future technologies.

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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