Autonomous aviation developer Reliable Robotics recently flew a Cessna Caravan with no pilot on board during a test flight in Northern California.
In what the Mountain View-based company called on 6 December “a first in aviation history”, it successfully completed a roughly 12min sortie with its always-on autopilot system engaged and pilot Danah Tommalieh supervising the empty aircraft from a control centre about 80km (50mi) away.
The Federal Aviation Administration-observed flight at Hollister Municipal airport on 21 November included a pattern over a populated area.
The company completed in July and August a trio of test-flights demonstrating that its autonomous systems can be used to fly pilotless aircraft in busy air-traffic-controlled airspace. Those flights were operated remotely with a pilot in the cockpit.
”The Reliable autonomous flight system enables the aircraft to be remotely operated by a pilot on the ground and improves safety by fully automating the aircraft through all phases of operation including taxi, take-off and landing,” the company says.
Reliable uses a 208B Super Cargomaster variant of the single-turboprop aircraft as its test bed.
Launched in 2017, Reliable is pushing for certification and commercialisation of its always-on autopilot. In July, the FAA accepted Reliable’s plan to certificate its flight system, which is expected to take 18-24 months.
The company is also focused on integrating autonomous aircraft into the larger National Airspace System.