Airbus has successfully tested a new simplified human machine interface (HMI) along with advanced autonomous features through a project code-named Vertex. These technologies, developed by Airbus UpNext, are controlled by a touchscreen tablet and aim to simplify mission preparation and management, reduce helicopter pilot workload and further increase safety.
Its FlightLab flew fully automated from lift off, taxi, take off, cruise, approach and then landing during a one hour test flight by following a predefined route. 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 and resume the mission afterwards. The flight test period ran from 27 October through to 22 November at the Airbus Helicopters' facility in Marignane, France.
"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 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," says CEO Michael Augello.
Airbus Helicopters will continue to mature the different technologies that comprise Vertex: 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.