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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 pilot workload and increase safety.

According to a company statement, 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
  • an advanced human-machine-interface – in the form of a touchscreen
  • head worn display for inflight monitoring and control

The combination of these technologies will result in a system that can manage navigation and route preparation, automatic take-off and landing, as well as following a predefined flight path. 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, the company said.

According to the company statement, it is not Airbus’ mission 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, the company states. Vertex is managed by Airbus UpNext, an Airbus 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.