Airbus has been testing a new pilot assistance feature called DragonFly that could potentially save an aircraft in an emergency. This system can automatically divert a flight in the event of an emergency, it can pick the best flight path to the nearest airport, communicate with air traffic control and the airline’s operations center. Even if the pilots are incapacitated, the aircraft can still land safely with the help of DragonFly.
This system can even automatically land on any runway using sensors and computer vision algorithms. Pilots can even get help taxiing around airports through technology that translates air traffic control’s clearance into usable guidance clues in a companion app. It can assist with speed control and alert pilots to obstacles. This means that crew can spend more time getting ready for the actual flight.
The testing has so far been limited to one A350-1000 demonstrator aircraft, so it could be a while before DragonFly reaches production. Regulators like the Federal Aviation Administration in the US will need to approve its use. But this is just a glimpse of where autonomous flight systems are headed. We might not see completely self-flying airliners for a long time, but we could see aircraft that require little intervention even in the middle of a crisis. This could also help increase flights to airports with difficult landings like New Zealand’s Wellington Airport and minimize taxiing-related delays. Stay tuned fam!