European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has achieved a significant milestone in aviation technology through the successful completion of its Vertex project. The project showcased a new simplified Human Machine Interface (HMI) controlled by a touchscreen tablet, along with advanced autonomous features developed by Airbus UpNext.

The primary goals of these technologies are to streamline mission preparation, reduce pilot workload, and enhance overall safety in flight operations. It’s important to note that the showcased autonomous technology in the FlightLab helicopter is designed to complement human pilots, serving as an advanced assistant rather than a replacement.

The Vertex project highlights immediate applications for low-level flights close to obstacles, leveraging information provided by onboard lidars (light detection and ranging). Lidars play a crucial role in identifying and avoiding unforeseen obstacles during flight, contributing to enhanced safety measures.

Airbus Helicopters is committed to further advancing the technologies within the Vertex project. Ongoing developments include refining vision-based sensors, enhancing fly-by-wire systems, and optimizing the HMI for comprehensive inflight monitoring and control.

During a one-hour test flight conducted from October 27 to November 22 at the Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Marignane, France, the Airbus Helicopters’ FlightLab achieved a fully automated flight from lift-off to landing. The test covered various flight phases, including taxi, takeoff, cruise, approach, and landing, with the pilot monitoring the system using a tablet interface.

The Vertex project integrates cutting-edge technologies such as vision-based sensors and advanced algorithms for situational awareness and obstacle detection. Fly-by-wire systems enhance the auto-pilot capabilities of the helicopter, while the advanced HMI, featuring a touchscreen and head-worn display, provides the pilot with inflight monitoring and control.

Michael Augello, CEO of Airbus UpNext, emphasized the potential impact of this technological advancement on urban air mobility. He stated, “This successful demonstration of a fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing is a great step towards the reduced pilot workload and simplified HMI that the Airbus Urban Air Mobility team intends to implement on CityAirbus NextGen.” The successful Vertex project represents a significant stride in Airbus’s pursuit of safer, more efficient, and autonomous flight operations.

By Impact Lab