Flightlab Helicopter to Perform Tests for Airbus Autonomous Flight Technology

Airbus is taking an important step towards autonomous helicopter flights, by launching the Vertex project, through which several autonomous features will be added and tested on their Flightlab helicopter.
Airbus unveiled the Flightlab helicopter earlier this year. 1 photo
Photo: Airbus
The aircraft manufacturer officially introduced the Flightlab helicopter back in January, with the purpose of testing various innovative technologies that would later be integrated on the company’s current helicopters or on their future Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft.

As shown by its name, this Airbus demonstrator is basically an aerial laboratory where technologies can be tested fast and effectively. Hybrid and electric propulsion technologies are one of the company’s top priorities, together with autonomous features.

According to the brand, autonomous technologies would not only help with mission preparation and management, but would also enable pilots to focus more on the mission, by taking over some of the tasks.

What Airbus wants to test specifically are vision-based sensors, an advanced human-machine interface (HMI), and an electronic interface (fly-by-wire) that enhances the auto-pilot function.

The frontal vision-based sensors are designed to detect low-altitude and low-speed obstacles. The HMI combines a touchscreen with a head-worn display, which help with mission preparation, as well as constant monitoring and improved control during flights. And the auto-pilot function is what reduces pilot workload.

By integrating all of these autonomous features, helicopters would benefit from automatic take-off and landing, navigation and route preparation, as well as a predefined flight path that they could easily follow.

By using our platform-agnostic flying laboratory to mature these technologies, we have an agile and efficient test bed that will support the development of future autonomous systems that could later equip Airbus’ current helicopter range and (e)VTOL platforms.”, said Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Airbus.

All of these autonomous features are being gradually integrated on the Flightlab helicopter, with a complete demonstration of all tested technologies set to take place in 2023.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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