TOULOUSE, FRANCE — Airbus UpNext, a subsidiary of the European aviation giant Airbus, has begun testing new pilot assistance technologies on an A350-1000 test aircraft.

The technologies, referred to as DragonFly, include automated emergency diversion in cruise, automatic landing, and taxi assistance. The goal of these tests is to determine the feasibility and relevance of further developing autonomous flight systems to improve safety and efficiency in operations.

“These tests are one of several steps in the methodical research of technologies to further enhance operations and improve safety,” said Isabelle Lacaze, Head of DragonFly demonstrator, Airbus UpNext.

“Inspired by biomimicry, the systems being tested have been designed to identify features in the landscape that enable an aircraft to “see” and safely maneuver autonomously within its surroundings, in the same way that dragonflies are known to have the ability to recognize landmarks.”

During flight tests, the DragonFly technologies were successfully able to assist pilots by managing simulated incapacitated crew member events and by providing assistance during landing and taxiing operations. The aircraft was able to take into account external factors such as flight zones, terrain, and weather conditions to create a new flight trajectory plan and communicate with both air traffic control and the airline operations control center.

In addition to these capabilities, Airbus UpNext also explored taxi assistance features which were tested in real-world conditions at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. The technology provided the crew with audio alerts for potential obstacles assisted speed control, and guidance to the runway using a special airport map.

Airbus UpNext has also announced the launch of a new project aimed at developing advanced computer vision-based algorithms for landing and taxi assistance. This project will be carried out in collaboration with several companies, including Airbus subsidiaries and external partners such as Cobham, Collins Aerospace, Honeywell, Onera, and Thales.

The tests for this project were made possible through the support of the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) and funding from the French Stimulus plan, which is part of the European Plan, Next Generation EU, and the France 2030 plan.