An Airbus A350-1000 test aircraft has successfully demonstrated the first fully automatic vision-based take-off at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France.

The test is part of Airbus’ autonomous taxi, take-off and landing (ATTOL) project, which was launched in June 2018. It seeks to gain a better understanding of how autonomy affects the aircraft.

Two pilots, two flight test engineers and a test flight engineer participated in the demonstration.

Performed late last month, the testing lasted for four and a half hours and saw the completion of a total of eight take-offs.

The automatic take-off is powered by image recognition technology installed on the aircraft and does not depend on the existing instrument landing system (ILS).

Airbus test pilot captain Yann Beaufils said: “The aircraft performed as expected during these milestone tests. While completing alignment on the runway, waiting for clearance from air traffic control, we engaged the auto-pilot.

“We moved the throttle levers to the take-off setting and we monitored the aircraft. It started to move and accelerate automatically maintaining the runway centreline, at the exact rotation speed as entered in the system. The nose of the aircraft began to lift up automatically to take the expected take-off pitch value and a few seconds later we were airborne.”

Under the ATTOL project, Airbus plans to launch a series of automatic vision-based taxi and landing procedures by mid-2020.

According to Airbus, pilots will continue to monitor the flight to enhance operations and performance with autonomous technologies playing a crucial role in allowing them to focus on strategic decision-making and mission management.