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Early Flight Deck Automation’s Role in Advancing Fully Autonomous Business Jets

TL;DR

  • Early automation on flight decks is paving the way for autonomy.
  • Companies like Cirrus and HondaJet lead with autonomous features.
  • Garmin’s Autoland and AI pilots signal progress toward fully autonomous jets.

Advancements in aviation technology are paving the way for autonomous flight features in business jets, with Embraer presenting a bold vision for an AI-enabled, fully autonomous business jet. The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer showcased an unnamed three-cabin-zone medium cabin jet concept at last year’s NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (BACE). While Embraer has emphasized that this concept represents an idea rather than a committed development program, the unveiling has sparked discussions about the future of autonomous flight in the business jet sector.

Cirrus and HondaJet lead the way in autonomous flight features

Two prominent players in the business jet sector, Cirrus and HondaJet, have already integrated autonomous flight features into their offerings, particularly for emergency situations. Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision Jet and Honda Aircraft Company’s HondaJet Elite II both feature an Autoland, or Safe Return, capability. This safety feature allows the aircraft to take control in emergencies, navigate to the nearest suitable airport, communicate with air traffic control, and execute a safe landing.

Honda’s commitment to automation

At the announcement of its HondaJet Elite II, Honda Aircraft Company expressed plans to introduce Autothrottle and Emergency Autoland by the end of 2023. The objective is to enhance operational safety and reduce pilot workload through the incorporation of automation, augmentation, and situational awareness technologies. While these developments signify a significant step toward autonomous flight, the industry acknowledges that regulatory changes and public acceptance remain key considerations.

Garmin’s autoland and the path to autonomy

The introduction of Autoland, developed by Garmin International, has been pivotal in advancing the capabilities of autonomous flight. Initially featured in Cirrus Aircraft Vision Jet, Piper M600 SLS, and Daher TBM 940, Autoland won the prestigious Robert J Collier Trophy in 2021. This certified autonomous system activates during emergencies, safely guiding and landing the aircraft without human intervention.

Garmin’s Autoland leverages existing technologies within its integrated flight deck products, including autopilot, navigation capabilities, communication capabilities, and other essential systems. The company overcame challenges by integrating these technologies practically, ensuring compatibility with different aircraft models, and addressing unique requirements for each.

AI-Pilots on the horizon

Merlin Labs, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, is developing the Merlin Pilot, an AI system aiming to transform avionics capabilities. While certification is still in progress, Merlin Labs envisions its AI being applied to aircraft like the Lockheed Martin C130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. XWing, another Californian company, is working on its Superpilot product, targeting the air freight sector. The superpilot is remotely managed, with mission control and ground crew staff monitoring the aircraft and intervening if necessary.

Despite these advancements, it’s crucial to note that fully autonomous AI pilots for business jets might still be in the future. Companies like Merlin Labs and XWing are focused on certifying foundational autonomy, gradually adding cognitive skills such as natural language processing. The goal is to enable AI pilots to communicate with air traffic control and complement human crews on larger business aviation aircraft.

The future of autonomous business jets

While Embraer’s autonomous business jet concept remains in the realm of ideas, the industry is witnessing the building blocks being laid for autonomous flight. The incorporation of radar altimeters, autothrottle, and advanced computation for decision-making in navigating weather and terrain are setting the stage for a future with autonomous business jets. The ultimate decision, whether to embrace autonomous technology or prefer the assurance of a human pilot, will rest with high-net-worth individuals and corporations considering private ownership of business jet-class aircraft.

Disclaimer. The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decisions.

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Derrick Clinton

Derrick is a freelance writer with an interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency. He works mostly on crypto projects' problems and solutions, offering a market outlook for investments. He applies his analytical talents to theses.

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