Plane of the future: how Airbus intends to save you time at the airport

Plane of the future: how Airbus intends to save you time at the airport
Plane of the future: how Airbus intends to save you time at the airport

Capital Video: Airplane of the future: how Airbus intends to save you time at the airport

© Airbus / Jean-Vincent Reymondon

– Airbus reproduced the cockpit of an A350 inside a truck for its research.

Danger does not always come from the sky for planes. Luggage lost on the tarmac, collision on the runways with another aircraft, poorly negotiated maneuver when exiting a hangar… Before even taking off, pilots must be careful. Especially since they spend 15% of their time “driving” the plane on the ground, and not in the air. Airbus has therefore decided to tackle the problem of traffic at airports. Presented at the VivaTech show, Wednesday May 22, This research could improve the safety of travelers, but also save them time.

With the increase in air traffic, plane jams have become increasingly common : stuck on the tarmac, planes queue up waiting to be able to take off or land. “Today, 24 airports in the world’s top 100 are already congested, even saturated. In 2038, there will be more than 60 in the same situation”figures Jonathan Rigaud, Optimate project manager at Airbus. The solution ? She is in a strange “flying truck” that circulates between the halls of VivaTech.

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Airbus prepares the plane of the future at VivaTech

This truck with a misleading name doesn’t really fly… However, it has a replica Airbus A350 cockpit. And the vehicle has been equipped with a multitude of equipment to observe its environment and react quickly: cameras, lidar (a laser which allows 3D mapping of the environment), GPS system, 5G connection, satellite antenna, etc. In the trailer , technicians carefully monitor the data reported by these sensors.

Carrying out such a test at VivaTech is not trivial. The truck is forced to drive down a narrow alley, dominated by huge cranes. Without forgetting the visitors to the show who venture into the area. In short, this decor is quite different from current airports. “It’s interesting to see how our systems react in situations we don’t know”, highlights Jonathan Rigaud. Especially since we don’t know what the airports of tomorrow will look like.

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To spice up the test, the Airbus teams place an obstacle in front of the flying truck, an errant piece of luggage. In the trailer, we monitor the reaction of the sensors live with the technicians. Everything goes as planned: the systems detect the obstacle and order the vehicle to stop. The collision was avoided. “Out of the millions of flights each year, we have approximately one plane collision per month. Generally, these are not dramatic accidents but they complicate operations”underlines Jonathan Rigaud.

Ensuring smoother traffic in the airport

“A bit like a car, the system will be able to indicate to the pilot the best path through the airport”adds Jonathan Rigaud. This innovation would therefore ensure, above all, smoother circulation on the tarmac, a more complex environment. When a pilot misses his departure slot, he sometimes has to return to the end of the plane queue… A penalty which can waste time for passengers and which causes excess fuel consumption for airlines. Otherwise says, aircraft traffic jams do not improve the carbon footprint of air transporta sector regularly singled out for its impact on global warming.

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If these experiments prepare more automated and more intelligent aircraft, the Airbus teams point out that it is far too early to talk about autonomous aircraft. “We will keep the crew at the heart of operations. Our goal is absolutely not to remove pilots from the plane. It’s about moving towards greater security.”, assures Matthieu Gallas, head of automation at Airbus. After the tests on this flying truck, Airbus plans a ground test with a real plane at the end of 2024, at Toulouse airport (Haute-Garonne).

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