Is Autonomous Aircraft the New Future?
Many of you may think that pilots nowadays don’t do much – they just lay back and autopilot does all the work for them. We’ll that it’s not exactly right. Autopilot does a great job helping pilots navigate mid-flight, but when it comes to taking off and landing, the pilot does all the hard work. Autopilot helps with finding the runway and executing a smoother landing, but 90% of the job is still on the pilots. The modern sophisticated autopilot systems can land a plane without a pilot, but still, require manual control form the airport. Until now…
German researchers from the Tech University of Munich just released a video of a fully autonomous plane landing. They created a system that can land a plane not only without a pilot but without any dispatchers controlling it remotely from the ground.
The fully autonomous system was demonstrated in a small aircraft with a pilot (or in this case – a passenger) on board. To be able to land itself the plane needed to locate the runway. GPS would be too imprecise in this case, so what is it that a plane can use to successfully locate it and land? The answer is quite simple – the same thing as pilots use, their eyes. Only in this case cameras, both visible-light and infrared.
German researchers used Diamond DA42, a single-passenger plane and modified it with a computer vision processor and an automatic control system specifically built for the experiment. Together the fully autonomous system and the aircraft were called C2Land.
“The cameras recognized the runway at a great distance from the airport.” Pilot Thomas Wimmer said, “The system then guided the aircraft through the landing approach on a completely automatic basis and landed precisely on the runway’s centerline.”
Here is the full flight video:
At this moment the technology used to land C2Land is still in its early stages. It will take years before it can be properly tested and distributed. But now we can easily see an interesting future with self-piloting aircraft. Fully automated flights will have the potential to reshape the industry including professions, ticket prices, and manufacturing costs.
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