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Pilots sat back and watched a plane take off entirely on its own.

USA Images

An Airbus test aircraft successfully took off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southern France autonomously without any pilot input. Photos released by Airbus show Beaufils’ hand hovering over the side stick as the airplane’s nose pointed towards the sky. He was not flying the aircraft, but merely an observer, though ready to take over if need be.

The test was part of Airbus’ Autonomous Taxi, Take-Off, and Landing program that explores increasing autonomous technology in aircraft.

The success of the test may be the next step in creating fully self-flying aircraft, though Airbus has said pilots will always be “at the heart of the operations.”

Airbus released photos on Wednesday of a flight test it conducted last month that may be the next step in making fully self-flying planes a reality.

The flight tests successfully sought to have one of its newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-1000 XWB, take off from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France completely on its own, aided by imagery from the aircraft’s camera.

Test pilots for the European manufacturer said that all they had to do was line the aircraft up and engage the autopilot, with the aircraft doing the rest, including making the necessary corrections to stay on the centerline and bringing the plane’s nose up when required.

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