• Airbus' H130 FlightLab with Vertex technology installed. (Airbus Helicopters)
    Airbus' H130 FlightLab with Vertex technology installed. (Airbus Helicopters)

Airbus Helicopters has completed a flight test of autonomous technology controlled by tablets rather than direct pilot input.

These technologies, code-named Vertex, were developed by Airbus UpNext, and are controlled by a touch-screen tablet. 

Airbus Helicopters’ FlightLab flew fully automated from taxi, take-off, cruise, approach and then landing during a one-hour test flight at Marignane, France. 

During this flight, the pilot monitored the system, which is able to detect unforeseen obstacles and automatically recalculate a safe flight path. Whenever necessary the pilot can easily override the controls through the tablet.

"This successful demonstration of a fully autonomous flight from take-off to landing is a great step towards the reduced pilot workload and simplified HMI [Human-machine interface] that the Airbus Urban Air Mobility team intends to implement on CityAirbus NextGen," said Michael Augello, CEO of Airbus UpNext.

"It could also have immediate applications for helicopters in low level flights close to obstacles thanks to the information provided by the lidars [light detection and ranging] on board."

Airbus Helicopters will continue to mature Vertex with vision-based sensors and algorithms for situational awareness and obstacle detection; fly-by-wire for enhanced auto-pilot; and an advanced HMI in the form of a touch-screen and headset display for in-flight monitoring and control.

According to Airbus, Vertex technology has been designed to simplify mission preparation and management, and reduce helicopter pilot work load.

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