Automatic Takeoff, Wayfinder, and the Next Generation of Aircraft

Airbus has successfully completed the first ever fully automatic takeoff of a commercial aircraft, in a recent demonstration at Toulouse-Blagnac airport. This achievement marks an important milestone not only for Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Takeoff & Landing (ATTOL) project, but for humanity’s ambitions towards autonomous flight as a whole. The demonstration was carried out on an Airbus Family test aircraft outfitted with cutting-edge image recognition technology, and comprised a total of eight takeoffs over a period of four and a half hours.

The technological advancements that have made this demonstration a reality align perfectly with the work we’re doing here at Wayfinder. As a member of the extended Airbus family, it’s our mission to build software that effectively leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to pilot the next generation of aircraft. Our team is focused on building scalable, certifiable autonomy systems—driving the continued maturation of AI, ML, and other core technologies. But what does that mean in the context of the automatic takeoff recently announced?

Simply put: the software we’re creating will allow it to perceive and react to its environment, including takeoff, landing, and collision avoidance. It’s the “brain” for the next generation of aircraft. Image recognition technology is a core component of this software, the special ingredient that allows the aircraft to “see.” This technology is crucial to support the autonomous taxiing, takeoff, and landing for Airbus’ ATTOL project.

By using machine learning and deep learning neural networks to unlock autonomous technologies, we’re helping pave the way towards a future in which single-pilot and self-piloted commercial aircraft will be the norm. However, it’s important to remember that autonomy itself isn’t the end goal. We recognize that improving air traffic management, addressing pilot shortages, enhancing future operations, and providing a safer, better flight experience for all are significant challenges that also remain on the horizon.

These technical and operational advancements will be a vital part of efforts to provide comprehensive support for pilots, who remain at the heart of aircraft operations. At Wayfinder, we’re proud to be part of the solution: solving the challenges of tomorrow by building software for the next generation of aircraft.

Follow us on Twitter at @AirbusSV.

- Arne Stoschek