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Reliable Robotics is bringing remote piloting to small cargo planes

Nearly one year ago, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk stealthily made aviation history when it moored at a small airport in Northern California marking the completion of the first successful remote-piloted flight of a passenger airplane in the United States.

The company behind this milestone in business aviation autobiography is Reliable Robotics, a startup founded in 2017 by onetime SpaceX and Tesla engineers who previously made autopilot to the electrical vehicle auto driving quantities and stirred the Dragon rocket soar.

The company has raised $33.5 million in venture funding from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Eclipse Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures and Teamworthy Ventures, and is now uttering its slope to potential clients in the logistics and carrying industry.

Robert Rose, the co-founder of Reliable Robotics, comes from a family of flyers. Both of this granddads flew in World war and had done stints as a aviator himself. In detail, the company’s inceptions stem from Rose’s attempts to get back in the cockpit and behind the yoke.

“Flying’s hard,” Rose said.” It requires a lot of cognitive clevernes .”

But a lot of that cognitive ability are tasks that Rose, with its own experience designing Tesla’s autopilot plan and the flight methods for both the Falcon and Dragon spacecraft, knew could be automated. Helping Rose to automate these tasks is Juerg Frefel, the company co-founder, vice president of engineering and the former ruler of the team behind the computing scaffold for the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecrafts.

Reliable’s organisations aren’t fully automated, there’s still a aviator behind the scenes, but that pilot is monitoring systems and controlling the plane remotely, rather than sitting in the cockpit.

Reliable started its ventures with retrofitting existing planes with autonomous organizations in much the same way that Tesla began its journey into manufacturing by use existing frames for aircraft rather than plan its own.

Control methods inside a Cessna retrofitted by Reliable Robotics. Image Credit: Reliable Robotics

“We spent the first portion of our flight evaluation curriculum focused on the C172. We exhaustively researched every aspect of our system in pretending and attended stringent security checks before operating the aircraft without a pilot on board and are now proud to share what we’ve been working on, ” said Rose, in a statement.

The company begins with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk but graduated to the larger Cessna 208 Caravan. The Caravan, which is designed as a passenger plane, is also used by logistics corporations like FedEx for shipping. In June, the company expressed a amply remote landing for the Caravan over the San Jose approach path — a particularly heavily trafficked route.

” There’s never been a privately funded curriculum that’s ever doing things like that before ,” said Rose.

Enabling remote pilot and automating certain aspects of flight has enormous potential to drive down costs and improve efficiencies in an industry that’s fight with numerou stresses.

” Automated aircraft are going to fundamentally switching the entire airline business, and Reliable Robotics is well positioned to be a leading player in this new busines ,” said David Neeleman, a the founding fathers of various commercial airlines including JetBlue( and overseas investors in Reliable Robotics ).

The company’s autonomous platform can be applied to any deposited wing aircraft, but Reliable’s co-founder and chief executive doesn’t expect to be selling ingredients. Instead, Reliable Robotics will retrofit and control aircraft as a service for its customers, Rose said.

” Initially, by requisite, we’re going to have to operate this as a service ,” said Rose.” The certification of systems for breath. If you want to operate in the airspace you have to certify your maintenance plan, your procedures … the entire business needs to be certified by the FAA … If for the first time someone operates an aircraft with no captain on board that entire business is going to have to be attested. At least for the first several years we see this being operated as a service .”

Reliable handled its first retrofit and flight on a Cessna Caravan owned by FedEx, which operates around 235 planes in its fleet, according to Rose. Several other sending business also use the Caravan for air logistics.

” There’s its communications component, a grind network, a control center for operating the thing. It’s solely a vertically integrated endeavor ,” Rose said.” Integrated hardware that allows us to control flight systems and get telemetry and data[ and that’s] inserted into a patronage computer that can process this and fly the aircraft and integrated into a sand system so a captain in our control center can oversee the operations of the plane .”

Rose said the pitch to clients is increasing pilot utilization.” How could the economics convert if[ captains] could teleport from one aircraft of the next after they’re done flying ?” Rose said.” Our system enables you to more efficiently utilize the pilot and more efficiently utilize the aircraft .”

Closeup of a Reliable Robotics control system. Image Credit: Reliable Robotics

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