Airbus' FlightLab flies itself while pilot rides shotgun with a tablet
Having shown off simplified copter controls, Airbus Helicopters' FlightLab has completed a fully automated flight testing a new simplified tablet-based human machine interface (HMI) designed to reduce pilot workloads and increase safety.
Normally, flying a helicopter is so complicated that it requires both hands, both feet, and the third hand that you don't actually have. Since flying in general is already an attention-heavy task, it isn't surprising that Airbus Helicopters and others are looking for ways to simplify the job to make helicopters safer and reduce pilot workloads.
As part of the Vertex project, the technology used in the flight tests from October 27 to November 22 at Airbus Helicopters’ facility in Marignane, France was developed by Airbus UpNext and is one of a number of systems being tested by FlightLab.
Using vision-based sensors, situational awareness and obstacle detection algorithms, and fly-by-wire autonomous systems, plus an advanced human-machine interface, FlightLab was able to carry out all phases from mission preparation, preflight checks, powering up, taxiing, take off, cruising, approach, and landing during a one-hour test flight. Meanwhile, the pilot monitored the flight with a tablet interface and head-worn display and could intervene if the system failed to detect obstacles and recalculate an alternate safe course.
The technology isn't intended to replace a human pilot, but to act as an assistant. However, it can also be transferred to robotic (e)VTOL platforms as well as other helicopters.
"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. It could also have immediate applications for helicopters in low level flights close to obstacles thanks to the information provided by the lidars on board," said Michael Augello, CEO of Airbus UpNext.
Source: Airbus Helicopters