Air Force to study autopilot multi-engine planes

A California company has announced an Air Force contract to study the feasibility of autonomous of big multi-engine jets.

Reliable Robotics, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company focused on aircraft automation systems, recently announced a contract to explore the automation of large, multi-engine jets.

The terms of the contract were not announced. But the company said it is developing a system that enables “continuous autopilot engagement through all phases of flight, including taxi, takeoff and landing with a remote pilot supervising operations.”

“Remotely piloted aircraft will enable the Air Force to increase mission tempo worldwide and leverage a certifiable commercial solution for defense industry needs at fractional costs and extend aircraft capabilities,” the company said in a release earlier this month.

“This contract furthers our focus on automation of large, multi-engine jet aircraft, which is an important step in our developmental roadmap,” said David O’Brien, a retired major general and senior vice president of government solutions at Reliable.

Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

“Headquarters Air Force Mobility Functional Integration Team supports the efforts of Reliable Robotics and the development of their aircraft automation systems, said Air Force Col. Sean R. McClune. “Reliable provides capabilities that will help close logistical gaps so that the United States Air Force can execute their role within the joint warfighting concept.”

A representative of Reliable Robotics, Manoli Tsaparkos, vehicle integration and test lead, participated in the 2021 Ohio Advanced Air Mobility Showcase at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport in November that year. That event featured the first public flights of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL, sometimes called “flying cars”) aircraft in Ohio.

The only flying mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the 445th Airlift Wing, flies nine Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, each powered by a quartet of Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines.

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