Avionics News January 2021 - 40

AUTONOMY FOR GENERAL AVIATION
Continued from page 38

Gariel is a former Rockwell
Collins engineer who worked on
the Agusta Westland SW4 Solo
autonomous helicopter and DARPA
Gremlins. Ed Lim is also on the team
as lead controls engineer. He has
nearly two decades of experience in
similar roles with Lockheed Martin,
Aurora Flight Sciences, Zipline and
Uber.
The autonomous systems these
companies are developing are not
just aimed at the Caravan but at
other general aviation aircraft. These
two companies are targeting a key
advantage in working with the FAA
to get approval for their systems by
starting with an already certificated
general aviation aircraft. That

40

avionics news

*

january

2021

means the only thing they have to
prove to the FAA is something that
is still plenty challenging as it has
never been done before - having an
autonomous system fly a general
aviation aircraft with supervision
from the ground. The supervisor
located at a control center won't
be a stick-and-rudder pilot but will
be there to redirect the Caravan, if
necessary, from the flight plan using a
series of keyboard commands.
" We tie into existing control
cables, so it is simple because we are
not modifying the entire aircraft, "
Rose said.
Reliable Robotics decided to work
first on a prototype autonomous
flight system on a Cessna 172, which
is more economical to operate in
flight test than a Caravan. Engineers
started with two-axis control and

moved on to three-axis and added an
autothrottle. Flights began in early
2018, and the first unmanned flight
occurred the following year after
about 100 hours of flight testing.
Rose said the Reliable Robotics
automation ties into the existing
Cessna 172 cable-and-pulley flight
control system approved under Part
23. The same is true in the Caravan
system, but Rose said the need
to control the aircraft throughout
the entire flight envelope meant
Reliable Robotics needed to develop
an actuator on its own. " What we
integrated on the Caravan has more
torque than you can buy with an offthe-shelf actuator, " Rose said.
Rose noted that flying straight and
level or in gentle turns doesn't require
a lot of force on the yoke or rudder
pedals. However, for takeoff, landing
and more aggressive turns, the force
requirements exceed what current
off-the-shelf autopilot servos can do.
But it helps that the Caravan " is not a
sporty aircraft, " Frefel said.
The Reliable Robotics system has
to fuse together a lot of navigation
information from GPS, altimeter,
VOR and DME to come up with
singular knowledge of where the
aircraft is in space. " We think of
it actually as an advanced flight
management system; you can upload
a flight plan and the system will
come up with a trajectory to fly, "
Rose said. " The remote pilot is given
options or opportunities to deviate
from that flight plan. " The end result
is a concept of operations titled
" supervised autonomy. "
" A key takeaway is that it is a
highly predictable system, " Frefel
said. " It is always clear to the remote
pilot on the ground what the aircraft
will do until the end of the flight. "
The system also tracks how the
aircraft is configured with the position
of the gear and flaps and autothrottle
system.


http://ciescorp.com

Avionics News January 2021

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