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Airbus' self-flying plane just completed successful taxi, take-off, and landing tests, opening the door for fully autonomous flight

Airbus just completed its Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off, and Landing project that saw one of its jets perform normally pilot-flown maneuvers entirely on its own. The A350-1000 XWB acted as the testbed for the project in its role as Airbus' flagship, with onboard cameras assisting the new technology. The project's successful completion opens the door for fully autonomous flights as autopilot already handles most of the functions while airborne. The common belief with airplanes is that they… ( 기타...

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I have no problem with automated flight systems, but the day they remove the pilots from the aircraft and go to fully automated, unsupervised flight is the day I stop flying.
"Open the pod door, Hal" "I'm sorry, Dave" - 2001 A Space Odyssey
Scumhook 1
lol yep
will the computer be able to land on the Hudson? Will a computer be able to fly the plane as a glider to the Azores and land it? What about gliding to an abandoned airstrip in Gimli Manitoba? There are too many reasons to justify needing real, experienced Pilots instead of computers or remote operators.
And yet the military has been flying drones halfway around the world from NEvada for years. And yes, computers will be that smart that they will be able to operate emergency landings and they will probably be able to do it quicker and more efficient.
Already exists: Garmin’s ‘Autonomi’ autonomous emergency landing system, available on some general aviation aircraft. This automatically performs descent, approach, and landing at a suitable nearby airport. Activates if pilot doesn’t interact with the airplane for some pre-set length of time, or if a passenger pushes the button.
Well those military "drones" don't operate autonomously. Every single one of them has a human operator(s) "flying" them. Sometimes they're essentially just programming them, and sometimes they're full-blown flying them, but there are always human operators involved. On top of that, the military loses literally DOZENS of drones a year to a myriad of issues from lost data links, to basic mechanical or weather issues that an onboard pilot might be able to recognize in time to correct or overcome. And lastly, the cost and complexity of all the additional systems that have to be put on board the UAVs in order to replace the pilot usually adds up to millions of dollars per aircraft. UAVs that were originally marketed to the Air Force as "not putting a human pilot at risk" have become so expensive that the military is just as risk averse to sending the unnamed aircraft into harms way as they are to sending in the manned aircraft.
No turning back.
The military does not report all the Lost aircraft it has encountered
A drone does not have human lives onboard....does a drone have to do a rapid descent due to loss of pressurization? (United 747 out of Hawaii, Southwest 737 in Hawaii) Does a drone have multiple hydraulic systems that aircraft manufacturers said that it would be impossible to lose all three hydraulic systems (United flight 232). Can a drone stomp on the brakes because a catering truck ran right in front of it on a taxiway or because another airplane crossed a runway??? Computers only think about how they are programed, humans can access many more situations than a computer can during irregular operations. So, drones may be able to be operated halfway across the world, but the general public will never get in an airplane without a pilot(s).
Mhhh difference between the two , drone is a airplane without passengers , or do Bc I see this wrong , you are comparing two totally different things
Yes, but the drones don't carry people.
Joe Wood 1
Correctumundo! (to quote the Fonz)
Scumhook 1
how dare you suggest there won't be a Sully subroutine programmed into all these magic black boxes...
Computers are a great aide to flying and I'm grateful for many of the advances. However, there are still too many incidents where the ingenuity of the human pilot saved the day when the computer was tasked with something outside its programming. Obviously can't speak for the far distant future but nothing I see or read for the immediate future even suggests to me that pilots are dispensable.
This technology has been around for years. It will never happen because we won’t ever accept it.
There will be lots of empty seats on that plane
What could possibly go wrong?
Lightning strike.....O we’re sorry but everyone was killed because of bad weather...the computer could not see the storm coming. Let call the airline.....Excuse US Airlines ....or Malfunction Air. Honey I just booked you on flight with no pilots the divorce papers were filed yesterday but I took out a huge life insurance policy on you...wink...wink.
So true, the insurance company know's very little money can be made if a Pilot is to blame, but will be able to be able to charge and save payouts in the future market.
You realize that every commercial aircraft is hit by lightning once a year on average?
Agreed. It's like when Sully asked his co-pilot to see what the QRH said for "dual engine failure". Of course there was no entry because Airbus said it could never happen!
If you have a jet upset from wake turbulence or severe thunderstorms no computer in the world could save yer ass. I have flown the Airbus A320 for over 17 years and when you get a elevator flooding at high speed because the bushing are worn there is no way a computer could figure the correct immediate response before the plane breaks up. I had this happen to me twice. The vibration was so bad a passenger wet himself. Flaws in the elevator bushings are still ongoing.
At work I use x5 512 GB of ram, and even more is avaliable. We use this to plan your intra-op brain tumor surgery. And we also use this same technology in the OR. It works. Now a pilot understands the physics of fight and how to fly the plane. He is also aware of a tremendous amount ot data that is constantly updated for him if he wants to look. Much like in the OR where millions of pixels are utilized/changed in real time and can change every micro second so we do not suck out your speech center. But even working with extremely bright surgeons, who have incredibly instinctual insights, the computer is faster and more accurate. We have learned to trust it. Once worked out I would feel very comfortable to fly without a pilot. That computer system has access to more information at a micro second than any human ever understand, and can change its plans in a micro second if it needs to adapt. Can you process 4 different mathematical process at once? Getting information and utilizing it from maybe 20 different systems? Computers can, humans can not.
skylab72 0
Yet another bogus apples to t-bone steak comparison. Computationally assisted human experts (like doctors) can and do astonishing feats that are impossible without cyber assist. However, that in no way implies a computational system, regardless of how powerful or how technically sophisticated could accomplish that task without human assistance, much less a task in another domain whose solution space is literally indeterminate in size. ALL such tasks can only be approached for "fully automated" solutions with an "acceptble failure rate" parameter. The expert human in the loop solution will ALWAYS beat that number!
Blake Van -1
Great! So we don't need health insurance,or car insurance or liability insurance, that would be great to save the money, however insurance company may wish this doesn't happen and we can be sure they have been figuring an alternate way to make money off us.
Fully autonomous flight, driverless cars, robots...sure, we can do it but what's the point? Killing more jobs just because we can? I'll take the train. Wait...they do still have engineers, right?
They are going driverless too, not sure how you'll go. Walk?
Nah, I'll pass.
Taxi, takeoff, fly course, approach, and landing are one thing. Introduce an emergency and you have something completely different. What about thunderstorms, icing, hail, turbulance, and other weather related phenomena?

Too many variables to account for that cannot be programmed to compensate for.

Just like autonomous vehicles, it's not going to happen in our lifetime. The AI is not good enough and processing power is not there yet.
To cite a famous example: bird strikes.
As long as "Roger" is right seating.
As someone who writes software for a living, I'd keep a close eye on Roger for the next decade, and I'm not going to jump at the chance to fly with both Roger and Rita!
Since planes are already highly automated you should have more confidence. By far most accidents are due to pilot error. This will only improve things.
I can't say I disagree with you in principle: however, it will be a long time before Roger and Rita can stop listening to ATC and land on the Hudson! They call it Artificial Intelligence for a reason.
Yeah, this won't happen tomorrow and it will go gradually. They will reduce pilots first and the remaining pilot will be monitoring and be ready to act if something doesn't go well. But eventually it will reduce them all. It could even go as far as having an optional remote operator. The military has been doing this already for years with their drones.
No question airlines would remove all pilots the very second they can. I am sure I do not want a 20 something person in FL, who is not even a pilot controlling my flight. A drone and a commercial heavy are two different critters.
Is the computer required to wear a MASK!
This is why I have my pilot license.
Tim. It is not a is a certificate
People will never go for it. Look at the MAX -- the computer took over and crashed the plane. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Benpa28 2
I see this as a step towards an inevitable future. I see lots of comments regarding how this technology would fare in a real world setting. But with technology like CPDLC in more remote areas, what if ATC went more automated alongside this?
Automated aircraft 'talking' to automated ATC facilities in milliseconds.....RVSM could decrease further = higher airspace capacity. Also, if the aircraft encounters a problem, it could determine the fault and a course of action to take and then decide to do it in milliseconds with the chosen facility for an emergency opposed to many minutes respectively.
As a backup during the infancy of this tech, airlines could have a dedicated team of rated pilots ready to remote control the aircraft in exceptional circumstances, saving on overall crew costs.
Yes, all of this exists in my imagination, but I don't think we'll wait too long before this automated technology is implemented further, as long as the supporting services are also working in the background. The goal would be optimal flight fuel economy, more efficient airspace usage, and better safety with reduced overall personnel by having a more central knowledge store making distribution of code/systems better controlled.
ATC run by FAA. About 25 years out before the red tape clears.
Benpa28 1
And to make the 'This is your captain speaking' voice sound like a 1980s synthesised voice :0

Or HAL 9000
“I’m sorry passengers, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Benpa28 1
P - Open the doors HAL, it's been a long flight.
- I'm sorry Dave.... I can't do that
P - My name isn't Dave. Who programmed this thing??
This would appear to be a cost saving measure. Now only one pilot is required on the aircraft. Maybe an inflatable copilot to assure the passengers.
Hey maybe each passenger could have a small joystick installed in there seat so they could take turns flying the plane.?
Or just sum all the inputs together
Benpa28 1
Years ago I was glad to see gray hair in the cockpit. Now I am comforted to see any hair at all. An enthusiastic passenger for 72 years. My first flight at age 8,Seattle to Spokane in a DC-3. It was magic until my older brother puked going over the Cascades. Looking forward to my next flight, doesn't matter the destination.
I don't expect no pilots to be there for a while but it will probably reduce the cockpit to only 1 pilot at first. Once these systems are perfected, no more pilots will be there but that will take a while. Everything will be automated. cars, planes. The military is working on many autonomous systems for planes, subs, ships, drones. Cheaper to build and costs less lives when shot down/sunk. It's coming, no way around it. Most accidents are due to pilot errors. This will take the weak link out. Sorry pilots, but geeks will rule the world :-)
These systems will never be perfected. Nothing is 100% foolproof or safe.
I'd be more excited about autonomous flight attendants. Maybe a vending machine that rolled down the aisle or a Zoom screen at the forward entry door with a cheerful person saying "Ba-bye now"!
me, too... if I had my way...I'd only fly with 2 qualified pilots..not one...not none... and I'd prefer one of them with military experience
Will never be an issue in my lifetime or my career. Way too many issues could pop up that an autonomous computer couldn’t handle. Sure it can taxi down one or two taxiways at a small, Airbus owned, empty airport but try reading back and following ATC instructions at JFK or ATL? Follow the second Delta CRJ? How would it know who to follow? That’s the first thing that came to mind. Autopilot failure in flight? Then what? I would NEVER rise on a fully autonomous plane and I’m an Airbus pilot RIGHT NOW!
Just for the record, automated flight systems would not be told to "follow the second Delta CRJ", the automation would identify the exact aircraft in question. Don't worry though, just like fully automated 18-wheelers, the government will regulate that pilots still be on board until the population of professional pilots is dwindled down through attrition, and by then acceptance of this technology will be second nature to the general public. Proof of this is last point is borne out by your children's greater reliance on their iPad than you have on yours.
Relics 2
I know most people don’t like it and certainly aren’t comfortable, but this will be unfortunately the future.
Taking a cue from the MLB, would having cardboard cut-outs of the pilots in the cockpit will suffice?
Maybe blow up dolls like in the movie "Airplane".
Or a dead one like Weekend at Bernie's.
OR just tell people, yeah the "Captain is in there". Now that the doors are locked who would ever know.
If and when single-pilot and then fully automatic no-pilot operations happen, all-cargo flights will be first. It’ll be a heavy lift to get “self-loading-seat-occupying cargo“ to accept fewer than two-pilot flying.
Captain Fuller, I might be wrong but two or three years ago I vaguely remember an article about Fred Smith’s interests for unmanned freight operations.
not for me...
Thankfully reason prevails.
We all know how automation worked out for Pakistan Airlines landing gear up on the engine pods.
Yes effing's coming. NFW is what people said about indoor plumbing too.
I would expect this to happen although probably not in my lifetime and would think initially it would be with a pilot monitoring. To say it'll never happen is like saying an autonomous spacecraft will never go to Mars or land on a asteroid!
"Welcome aboard our Pilotless flight 101. Everything is controlled by computer, nothing can go wrong...
go wrong...
go wrong...
go wrong...
go wrong.......
People have been talking about this for decades. My father told me this very joke when I was a lad. 76 now..:)
I don’t think self flying airplanes will be approved until manufacturers can demonstrate the aircraft can preform emergency and irregular procedures at least as good as a human without outside intervention. This means onboard artificial intelligence independently working without a ground based human operator dependent on satellite data link.
And the demonstration you suggest is going to be here before you know it. For those (not you) who've stated "not in my lifetime", they must be very old already. This is coming sooner that all might think. Keep in mind, there will still be jobs for pilots (see my earlier post above). There is no use in fighting the future!
Perfect the system on cargo A/C for a number of years...Once confidence is secured by the flying public, there may be a chance someone's getting on board...hopefully a few of my ex's).
As a Pilot having to Interface with B767-300Er flight computer, FMS, Autopilot, I have to correct the systems or disconnect the thing every flight if a Pilot isn't there and Data link lost then what?
lwr 1
Predictably, a lot of naysayers. This will initially be deployed on cargo jets. No pax to worry about.

But my question is: how big of a cost savings are we really talking about? If a pilot costs an operator $150k/year, and they only make 1 trans-Pacific round trip a week (50 a year), the pilot "overhead" is $6k per round trip (assuming crew of 2). If they're more "productive" (2-3 trips a week?), the potential savings are even lower. Seems like small potatoes compared to fuel, maintenance, etc., i.e., barely worth the effort.
NO... not even on cargo jets. People would not like that either. They don't want a computer controlled airplane flying over them -- again, I bring up the MAX. PLUS, it would have to pass the FAA criteria and regulations, which I believe it won't. Again, look at the scrutiny with the MAX, and those 737s have pilots onboard. People are going to look at the FAA with even more scrutiny than they are now if this idea comes up for approval.

But you make a great point, is it even worth the cost, when compared to the safety aspect of it?!
skylab72 1
Fear Pilots have now and in future is big business, corp's, insurance, and governments are taking away the thing we love, Flying Aircrafts,Space craft, car's. Yes as Pilots we are "loosing control" we as Human Pilots since the done of time wished we could fly, that will never change, however were being replaced, by Droins, UAV, UAS, Autopilots, autonomous vehicles, Space vehicles, even Car's soon!. Question, id.. will we as Human Pilots allow ourselves to be Outlawed from the Cockpit and driver's seat by Insurance and corporate governments policy's.
I'll still be able to fly my "soon to be antique" 1979 Cessna 182 (great fun!), and drive my "someday to be antique" 2014 Corvette (also great fun). No one is trying to take away THOSE freedoms, just our right to vote ;-)
Ladies and Gentlemen this is your "AI Captain" speaking please be advised that a security update to my Flight Management system regarding my truth index has just failed to install so I am still able to advise tell you the truth and safety of your Flight, The Ground and ATC AI Controllers have determined Financial AI Control will continue to update again, Human interference is trying to stop this reduced truth index update, no further announcements will be heard if this truth index update is installed, thank you.
A pilot wants to get home to ma and the kids. Computer don't give a rat's butt.
If autonomous flight ability is dependent upon cameras, it appears that it relies on visual performance. This would exclude flying in IFR conditions, which is "bread and butter" reality in aviation. Therefore, pilots will always be required in case that meteorological conditions will change during flight.
It’s not safe....big no for me! ....accident waiting to happen.
Benpa28 0
The human element worries me in commercial flights, you have great pilots (Sully) but you also have pilots flown to an inch of their schedule who are tired and bored of endless routines. I would bet after many trials (1000s hours in every conceivable environment) the safety factor would be the same if not better with an automated system.....but it would never be perfect. Just like a human. But it would maintain a standard of 'programmed experience'.
Wasn't there a flight in the US where both pilots fell asleep and overshot the intended airport by 60 minutes? I know these are rare cases, but an automated system would be constantly alert to its position and internal systems.
Essentially you would be confident that any automated aircraft you sat in would be at a certain standard.

Just a matter of time and we can't stop it and maybe we shouldn't try.

Tests have shown that computers can fly and drive more safely.

A recents segment on "60 Minutes" was about driverless semi trucks that was very interesting.
Right. Driverless semis and pilotless planes will still require (via government regulation) a driver/pilot to be monitoring until the population of drivers/pilots is reduced through attrition. By then (a couple decades from now), people will be ok with pilotless aircraft. Sooner for semi trucks.
Except for Teslas


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