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Featured, Robotics, Technology

Furthering The ‘Auto’ In Autopilot: Autonomous Aircraft

In recent years the automotive manufacturing industry is seen investing heavily in unmanned vehicles such as self-driving cars and self-flying planes. Drones are an instance of innovation and they have already proven their diverse utility. Have you ever wondered what ‘autopilot’ does to an aircraft, or for the pilot, in that matter? It lets the pilot fly long hours, taking the anxiety of meticulous attention to the controls off him. It works executing the mechanism of the negative feedback loop. This is a self-regulating system that reacts to feedback from sensors in a way that maintains equilibrium. Generally, sensors pick some data or input, that it returns to the system to keep it functioning in a preset way.

Also Read: Weather Forecasting: Unleashing the Power of AI

A modern automatic flight-control system (AFCS) has three main parts: a flight-monitoring computer, several high-speed processors, and a series of sensors placed on various parts of the plane. The sensors, positioned in various strategic locations, collect data from the entire plane and send them to the processors. These processors execute the information and decide between pushing controls.

AFCSs come in three different variants of sophistry. These are single-, two-, and three-axis autopilot, depending on the number of parts they control. Single-axis controls the ailerons. It is also called the “wing leveler” as it controls the roll of the plane and maintains the wings perpendicular to the ground. The two-axis variety handles everything the single-axis does; additionally controlling the elevators. The three-axis kind covers the two-axis and includes the rudder. The computer then tells the servomechanism units what to do. The Servos are the small instruments that physically cause movements to the controls. These individual mechanisms combine to make ensure that the plane stays up in the air. 

However, they don’t just work on their own. The successful functioning of ‘autopilot’ is heavily reliant on skillful and knowledgeable maneuvering of the aircraft. Hence, it still needs an experienced pilot at the head.

The Quest For Non-Human Piloting

In recent years automotive manufacturing industry is seen investing heavily in unmanned vehicles such as self-driving cars and self-lying planes. Drones are an instance of innovation and they have already proven their diverse utility.

Also Read: Future is the coupling of IoT and AI: Here’s Proof

The beginning of 2019 saw the Boeing autonomous air taxi prototype embark on its first flight; taking off vertically, hovering for a few seconds, and landing successfully. Simple, the flight displayed superior performance in terms of the vehicle’s autonomous functions and grounds control system. And, astonishingly, took just one year to move from concept design to a flying prototype. The Boeing self-driving aircraft is built for complete- autonomy in flight from take-off to landing within a range of up to 50 miles. Future flights of the aircraft will move forward conducting tests on wing-borne flight and gauging the transition between vertical and forward flight modes.

Sometime in mid-June 2019, Airbus tested its version of self-driving air taxi called Vahana – a single-seater, battery-powered prototype that can attain speeds of up to 99 miles per hour, covering distances of up to 35 miles. Quite like its Boeing counterpart, self-driving aircraft, Vahana takes off vertically, but the wings on this aircraft rotate after take-off, allowing it to fly like a plane.

Autopilot: To Conclude

The manufacturing and innovation department has progressed further and has surely landed higher successes even as we report this. However, safety and supportive infrastructure are crucial in any such effort and it must be allowed its due time to test the various aspects of the airborne.

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