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We can’t even make self-driving cars work, but Airbus just landed a self-flying plane

Emergency Pilot on board.

airbus plane in air
Image: Airbus

The last thing you want to have to worry about when you fasten your seatbelt onboard an airplane is who’s actually flying the plane, but maybe that’s just one more thing that needs adding to the checklist of the nervous flyer.

Airbus completed a successful flight test of its Autonomous Taxi, Take-off, and Landing project in June, in which each stage of the flight was all handled by the computers, while the pilots just sat back and watched the show.

Airbus installed cameras on the new Airbus A350-1000 XWB then trained the AI on over 500 flights, which gave the AI all the training it needed to fly the plane on its own. That’s comparable to the number of flight hours that human commercial pilots need to get their Airline Transport Pilot certification. Once trained, the AI system uses the external cameras on the A350 to then fly the plane, as if the pilots sat in the cockpit had their hands on the controls.

That’s some pretty impressive stuff, but it’s even more impressive since the first test flight of the system was only in December, when the A350 did a successful autonomous take-off, before handing the reins back over to the human co-pilots to land the plane. Back then, pilots had to line the plane up on the runway as well, then the jet took over. That includes any course correction due to crosswinds, something that was previously done by the pilots.

Now the jet can do the whole flight, from navigating the taxiways to takeoff, to flight, to landing, and the taxi back to the gate. Whewww, that’s impressive. The same tech can also autonomously refuel jets in the air, no small feat.

Don’t worry though, the tech won’t be replacing the pilots completely, it’ll be there to lessen the load on pilots with the aim of improving the overall safety of flying. Awesome.

Would you trust a self-flying plane? Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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