Autonomous Passenger Plane Performs Flights Over Populated Regions

By Mike Ball / 31 Aug 2020

Reliable Robotics autonomous passenger plane

Reliable Robotics has successfully completed test flights of remote-piloted passenger airplanes in United States airspace, achieving what it claims is a first for global commercial aviation. The company has designed and built a proprietary autonomous platform that can be applied to any fixed-wing aircraft, and includes avionics, software, mechanisms, a communications system, remote command interfaces, as well as a backup system that has the capability to take over if needed.

The autonomous system was first integrated onto a Cessna 172 Skyhawk (C172), a 2550-pound four-passenger aircraft. Following a successful fully automated gate-to-gate operation and subsequent extensive system safety analysis and testing, an unmanned test flight was conducted that included automatic taxiing, takeoff and landing. This marked the first time a privately funded company operated a passenger airplane of this type with no pilot on board over a populated region, and was an important step in certifying the autonomous platform for repeated, safe civil use on certified aircraft.

For the second test flight, the system was integrated into the larger 14-passenger Cessna 208 Caravan (C208), and demonstrated fully automated remote landing of the aircraft. Following these test flights, Reliable Robotics is now working with the FAA on incrementally bringing this technology to market.

David Neeleman, founder of five commercial airlines including JetBlue Airways, commented: “Automated aircraft are going to fundamentally shift the entire airline business, and Reliable Robotics is well positioned to be a key player in this new market. The progress their team has demonstrated in a short amount of time is very impressive.”

Robert Rose, Co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics, said: “We spent the first portion of our flight test program focused on the C172. We thoroughly tested every aspect of our system in simulation and conducted rigorous safety checks before operating the aircraft without a pilot on board and are now proud to share what we’ve been working on. By bringing advanced automation to aviation, we will deliver higher safety, reliability and convenience for cargo operators and eventually for passengers.”

Greg Reichow, Eclipse Ventures Partner, stated: “Reliable Robotics has assembled a proven team with deep experience across aviation, aerospace, self driving cars, medical devices and robotics. I’m excited to see them achieve milestones methodically while prioritizing safety, and navigating a complex regulatory environment.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact