Avionics News January 2021 - 41

Caravan flight testing is still underway while the
The communications system uses a combination of two
company is having extensive discussions on certification
independent satellite systems and a line-of-sight system
issues with the FAA. The company aims to have the entire
as well.
autonomous system certified within two years. COVID-19
Reliable Robotics has developed a lot of proprietary
is not slowing Reliable Robotics down much except for
algorithms to drive its detect-and-avoid system, but that
slower shipping of machine shop parts because many of the
system relies on certified off-the-shelf sensors. Rose is a
principal team members were already working from home.
big fan of ADS-B, and the autonomous Caravan will use
The company has more partners than it can disclose at the
it. " A big part our strategy is to make these aircraft look
moment and recently raised $35 million in venture capital.
like any other aircraft flying in the airspace today, " he said,
Reliable Robotics expects to assist customers initially
including under the Mode C veil where ADS-B is required.
by supplying remote operators and training and operational
" A lot of our thinking is to leverage existing, certified
procedures. And while it may be a long way into the future,
(avionics) systems, " Rose said. " And we have no desire to
the idea of having an autonomous Caravan carry passengers
do our own maintenance, repair and overhaul. The FAA has
is a mission that is a gleam in the eyes of the company's
a marvelous repair shop system that we want to leverage. "
founders.
This includes Aircraft Electronics
While Reliable Robotics has
Association member companies and
conducted Caravan flight tests with a
many readers of Avionics News. The
THE AUTONOMOUS
pilot on the ground rather than in the
autonomous system is being designed
SYSTEMS THESE
cockpit, San Francisco-based Xwing
to make it as easy as possible to install
has a crew of four people, including a
and inspect.
COMPANIES ARE
test pilot, aboard a Caravan for its flight
The company developed a robust
DEVELOPING ARE
test program. A test pilot in the left seat
autothrottle system for the PT-6 on
NOT JUST AIMED AT
keeps an eye out for other traffic, a flight
the Caravan because the full operating
THE CARAVAN BUT
test engineer occupies the right seat, and
range of the engine has to be
AT OTHER GENERAL
two company engineers analyze every
controlled including reverse thrust for
aspect of the automated flight system
engine braking on the runway. A lot
AVIATION AIRCRAFT.
operation. When back on the ground,
of autothrottles can't handle reverse
all the data is uploaded to the cloud so
thrust, Rose noted. While current
everyone in Xwing can review it.
use cases under consideration are
The team has completed automatic takeoffs and landings
where Caravans normally operate, future use may include
and is now working on autotaxi test.
maximum performance short-field landings. Reliable
During automatic landings, the autonomous system makes
Robotics engineers see this as a challenge, and they can't
the decision on which runway to land based on the weather,
wait to tackle it.
while the Xwing detect-and-avoid system spots other aircraft
The company did even more extensive simulation in
that have to be avoided. " We are replacing the brain and eyes
preparing for the first test flight of a Caravan including
of the pilot, " Gariel said. " The ultimate goal is to integrate
140,000 landings in the simulator. This is why on day three
the Caravan into the traffic pattern like any other VFR
of Caravan flight testing the team was able to successfully
aircraft. " Landings will be guided by GPS and vision-based
complete an automatic landing. Thousands of simulations
systems to make sure the aircraft is aligned with the runway.
make it possible to check out hot, cold and wet days with
Xwing's next step starting soon is being aimed at
snow and ice. It is more economical to test the entire flight
gathering a large amount of data for the FAA on the
envelope in simulation to reduce the number of hours in the
operation of a more mature version of its autonomous flight
flight test program.
system. It plans to equip a fleet of Caravans with these
Some of the simulation software in use is licensed, but
systems and operate them with pilots in commercial cargo
the majority was developed in-house. And the company
service under Part 135. The systems will be observed in
fully instrumented a Caravan to get measurements of every
operation to collect data initially without closing the loop
performance detail including flight control surface angles.
and having the novel equipment fly the aircraft.
It obtained high-precision air and navigation data to create
" The FAA has not done this before (certified an
its own computer model. Careful research and extensive
autonomous system), so we are interested in collecting a
simulation is how Reliable Robotics went from the start
of Caravan system identification to an automated landing
during a flight test just nine months later.
Continued on following page
avionics news

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january

2021

41



Avionics News January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News January 2021

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Avionics News January 2021 - Intro
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Avionics News January 2021 - Cover2
Avionics News January 2021 - 1
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Avionics News January 2021 - Cover3
Avionics News January 2021 - Cover4
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