Airbus is introducing autonomous features to its helicopter Flightlab through a project code-named Vertex.
These technologies aim to simplify mission preparation and management, reduce helicopter pilot workload, and further increase safety.
The autonomous technology bricks set to integrate the Flightlab are: vision based sensors and algorithms for situational awareness and obstacle detection; fly-by-wire for enhanced auto-pilot; and an advanced human-machine-interface – in the form of a touchscreen and head worn display for inflight monitoring and control.
The combination of these technologies will enable a system that can manage navigation and route preparation, automatic take-off and landing, as well as following a predefined flight path.
Airbus Urban Air Mobility Plan to Benefit
The incremental integration of these technologies onto the helicopter Flightlab has begun ahead of a complete demonstration in 2023. Airbus’ Urban Air Mobility will also benefit from this technology as an essential stepping stone towards autonomous flight.
“We are excited by the potential that the Vertex demonstrator project has to offer,” said Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Airbus.
Ms. Vittadini added that by using the platform-agnostic flying laboratory to mature these technologies, they had an agile and efficient test bed that will support the development of future autonomous systems that could later equip the current helicopter range and (e)VTOL platforms.
Improving Helicopter Safety
“Airbus’ mission is not to move ahead with autonomy as a target in itself, but to explore autonomous technologies alongside other technological innovations. In doing so, Airbus is able to analyse the potential to enhance future operations, and at the same time, leverage these opportunities to further improve aircraft safety,” she said.
A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defence as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.
Airbus has built on its strong European heritage to become truly international – with roughly 180 locations and 12,000 direct suppliers globally. The company has aircraft and helicopter final assembly lines across Asia, Europe and the Americas, and has achieved a more than six-fold order book increase since 2000.
Vertex is managed by Airbus UpNext, an subsidiary created to give future technologies a development fast-track by building demonstrators at speed and scale, evaluating, maturing and validating new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.
UpNext uses demonstrators as the principal means of evaluating, maturing and validating new products and services that encompass radical technological breakthroughs.
- To identify the trends that could disrupt the future of the aerospace industry and evaluate them to demonstrate their potential as a viable product,
- To accelerate traditional research cycles and prototype development to achieve proof of concept in a real environment and at a convincing scale and speed,
- To develop real-world applications for emerging aerospace technologies, thereby driving their maturity and increasing their value.
UpNext focuses on flying future technologies at speeds well beyond what seems feasible today. In doing so, it is actively shaping the future of the aerospace industry.
Airbus strives to provide the most efficient helicopter solutions to its customers who serve, protect, save lives and safely carry passengers in demanding environments.
Its helicopters are in service across more than 150 countries worldwide, performing nearly every type of vertical flight task imaginable. The company’s product line offers the full spectrum of rotary-wing aircraft solutions for civil, government, military, law enforcement and parapublic uses.
Its civilian helicopters range from the light single-engine H125 to the 11-tonne twin-turbine H225 rotorcraft. Military versions are mission-proven in the most demanding front-line conditions, and are trusted by more than 100 armed forces worldwide.
Safety is at the core of all Airbus’ activities. From design, engineering and production, to maintenance, training and partnerships, Airbus is focused on meeting and exceeding industry safety standards and supporting the flight safety for the thousands of men and women around the world who are transported in its aircraft every day.