In A First, Pilotless Aircraft Completes First Test In 12 Minutes

The video gives a 360-degree experience inside the cockpit.

In about 12 minutes, a Cessna 208B Caravan airplane took off, cruised, and landed without a single person on board. The “monumental aviation achievement” happened on November 21 at Hollister Municipal Airport in San Benito County, California. 

“This industry-first flight is a demonstration of remote operation of the world’s most popular cargo plane, highlighting that the technology works and is within reach,” said Robert Rose, co-founder and CEO of Reliable Robotics in an interview with Forbes. “The technical achievement furthers our goal of developing an advanced automation system that can be certified under the Federal Aviation Administration’s exacting Part 23 airworthiness standards for normal category aircraft. The ability to certify the system under existing regulations without special conditions or exemptions is critical to its safe integration into the National Airspace System (NAS).”

Additionally, Reliable Robots has collaborated with the US Air Force on remote piloting since 2021 and holds membership in the CargoVision forum of ASL Aviation Holdings, a global aviation services company dedicated to exploring innovative aviation technologies.

The video gives a 360-degree experience inside the cockpit. 

See the video here:

The company headquartered in Mountain View, California, supplied the autonomation system for the aircraft. Although no pilot was physically present on board, pilot Danah Tommalieh commanded the plane remotely from Reliable’s control center located 50 miles away.

In contrast to certain other remote operations, there were no joysticks or manual controls for hands-on flying. Instead, the remote pilot was presented with a menu of “valid, safe options” and had to select from these choices, as explained by Rose.

Commands are validated to not put the aircraft into a precarious situation, such as flying too close to the ground or flying too fast or too slow. All takeoffs and landings are fully automated, Rose told Forbes.

The company highlights that the Cessna Caravan, with a cargo capacity exceeding 3,000 pounds, possesses the capability to take off and land on short runways. This feature enhances its utility in accessing locations that may be otherwise challenging to reach.

“This monumental aviation achievement is a great example of how AFWERX accelerates agile and affordable capability transitions for the world’s greatest Air Force,” said Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force, in a statement. “This milestone accelerates dual-use uncrewed flight opportunities, increasing aviation safety and enabling us to bring a broad range of autonomous military capabilities into denied environments.”



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