Airbus UpNext makes the unimaginable a reality
Imagine an airplane landing and parking itself, a military aircraft refueling autonomously in-flight, a helicopter that has takeoff and landing “intuition,” or a low-carbon emission engine. These seemingly George Lucas film-inspired ideas are now being brought to life at innovation centers in France, Spain and Germany thanks to Airbus UpNext.
Airbus UpNext brings future technologies to life to stay at the forefront of innovation. UpNext focuses on bringing future technologies to life at speeds well beyond what seems feasible today, while actively shaping the future of the aerospace industry. Projects leave the lab to become reality in line with UpNext's philosophy: 'one foot in the present and one in the future'.
A clear example of this is the DragonFly demonstrator, which explores pilot assistance technologies to further enhance flight safety and efficiency. In fact, tests began in mid-January on an A350-1000 aircraft. The technologies being demonstrated include automated emergency diversion in cruise, automatic landing for crew member-incapacity situations and taxi assistance on the ground.
UpNext also launched Blue Condor, a flight test program that studies contrails produced by a hydrogen combustion engine and accelerates hydrogen-powered flights. Blue Condor is taking a modified glider up to 33,000 feet – an extreme altitude for an aircraft that normally cruises below 10,000 feet.
UpNext is also innovating in defense topics such as Auto'Mate, a demonstrator which develops, adapts and evaluates technologies enabling autonomous air-to-air refueling operations, currently an A330 MRTT is carrying out the flight test campaign. Auto’Mate will focus on automating the receiver aircraft’s tasks, which requires a set of new technologies which will be tested in flight during 2023.
Three further projects stand out: VERTEX, aimed to reduce helicopter pilot workload during landing and takeoff using intuitive devices; eXtra Performance Wing, focused on validating technologies that will improve and optimize wing aerodynamics and performance for any future aircraft; and ASCEND, that will focus on testing cryogenic and superconducting technologies to significantly boost the performance of hybrid-electric and electric propulsion systems for zero-emission aircraft.
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