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AUVSI: Rockwell guides Centaur optionally-piloted aircraft

The recent successful first fully autonomous takeoff and landing test flight of the Aurora Flight Sciences (booth 1646) Centaur optionally piloted twin-engine aircraft demontstrated the autopilot capabilities of the Rockwell Collins (1651) Athena 411 control system, on display at the show.

"The successful flight test marks the first time that an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) autopilot has been flown in an optionally piloted aircraft," says Dave Schreck, director of UAS and Control Technologies for Rockwell Collins. "We are using affordable UAS technology to bring advanced aerospace functions and enhanced safety features to optionally piloted vehicles."

Developed originally for military UAS applications, the Athena 411 provides attitude and heading measurements with static and dynamic accuracy superior to traditional spinning mass vertical and directional gyros.

The Centaur can be flown in three modes: piloted like a normal general aviation aircraft, as an unmanned aircraft - using a completely separate control system installed where the copilot normally sits - as well as in a hybrid mode, operated as a UAV but with a crew onboard.

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