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Reliable Robotics flies large cargo aircraft with no one on board

Reliable Robotics, a specialist in aircraft automation systems, says it has achieved “a significant milestone” in its work to bring advanced safety-enhancing technologies to market in the United States.

Last month’s successful flight of a Cessna 208B Caravan with no one on board was a first for aviation. A remote pilot supervised the uncrewed aircraft from Reliable’s control center 50 miles away. For a 360° experience inside the cockpit, view and scroll around at: https://youtu.be/0W5JHIHq40Q

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, takeoff and landing.

Reliable’s system is aircraft agnostic and utilizes multiple layers of redundancy and advanced navigation technology to achieve the levels of integrity and reliability necessary for uncrewed flight.

The system will prevent controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and loss of control in flight (LOC-I), which account for the majority of fatal aviation accidents.

The Cessna Caravan is designed and manufactured by Textron Aviation. Reliable Robotics has been collaborating with Textron Aviation, which includes the Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker brands, and Textron eAviation focused on sustainable flying.

Textron Aviation has delivered more than 3,000 Caravans, proving it to be the world’s most popular turboprop utility aircraft.

Chris Hearne, senior vice president of engineering and programs, Textron Aviation, says: “Textron Aviation is committed to delivering continuous aviation improvements and our relationship with Reliable Robotics advances this work.

“Reliable’s successful flight of an uncrewed Cessna 208 Caravan represents a milestone for the industry in bringing new technology to aviation.”

The Caravan, and other regional cargo aircraft like it, serve an essential role connecting communities and businesses across the United States and around the globe.

With a useful load of over 3,000 pounds, and a take-off performance to operate from shorter runways, these aircraft deliver time-sensitive shipments to many places that would otherwise not have next-day or same-day service. Remote piloting will allow even more areas to benefit from this critical service.

ASL Aviation Holdings is a global aviation services company with airlines based in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, and has been working with Reliable Robotics since 2022 to explore bringing advanced aircraft automation into its operations.

ASL operates a fleet of over 160 aircraft and provides cargo services for the world’s leading express parcel integrators and eCommerce platforms. Reliable Robotics is an original member of ASL’s CargoVision
forum of companies involved in pioneering new aviation and propulsion technologies.

Dave Andrew, chief executive of ASL Aviation, says: “ASL is always innovating to better serve customers, and our partnership with Reliable Robotics is aimed at enabling us to provide reliable, flexible and cost-efficient time-sensitive cargo delivery to smaller unserved areas.

“This historic flight is a testament to Reliable’s focused leadership in advancing aviation innovation and capability for the industry.”

Reliable Robotics and the US Air Force are working to leverage the significant progress on remote piloting for the Cessna Caravan to jointly examine how this commercially derived technology can be applied to large multi-engine aircraft for cargo logistics, aerial refueling and other missions.

Reliable has been working under a series of contracts with the Air Force since 2021.

Colonel Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force, says: “This monumental aviation achievement is a great example of how AFWERX accelerates agile and affordable capability transitions for the world’s greatest Air Force.

“This milestone accelerates dual-use uncrewed flight opportunities, increasing aviation safety and enabling us to bring a broad range of autonomous military capabilities into denied environments.”

The FAA formally accepted the certification plan for Reliable’s autonomous flight system in June of 2023. The certification plan leverages existing regulations for normal and transport category aircraft, and does not require any special conditions or exemptions.

With multiple industry-first technical accomplishments and unrivaled FAA certification progress, Reliable Robotics is well positioned to deliver safety-enhancing aircraft automation systems.

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