Almost 1 year ago, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk stealthily made aviation history as it landed at a small airport in Northern California indicating the conclusion of the first successful remote-piloted flight of a passenger airplane in the United States.
The organization behind this milestone in commercial aviation is Reliable Robotics, a startup founded in 2017 by former SpaceX and Tesla engineers who previously attracted attention into the electrical car driving masses and forced that the Dragon rocket soar.
The company has raised $33.5 million in venture capital from investors including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Eclipse Ventures, Pathbreaker Ventures and Teamworthy Ventures, and is presently making its pitch to prospective customers from the logistics and shipping industry.
Robert Rose, the co-founder of Reliable Roboticscomes from a family of all flyers. Both of this grandfathers flew in World War Two and had done stints as himself. In reality, the company’s origins stem from Rose’so attempts to get back into the cockpit and behind the yoke.
“Flying’so hard,” Rose explained. “It takes a lot of cognitive capability. ”
But a good deal of the cognitive capacity are tasks which Rose, with his expertise designing Tesla’s autopilot system along with the flight systems to both the Falcon and Dragon spacecraft, knew could be automated. Allowing Rose to automate these jobs is Juerg Frefel, ” the company co-founder, vice president of technology and the former president of the team behind the computing platform to the Falcon 9 along with also Dragon spacecrafts.
Reliable’s systems aren’t entirely automated, there’s still a pilot behind the scenes, however that pilot is still monitoring systems and controlling the plane remotely, as opposed to sitting in the cockpit.
Reputable started its experiments using retrofitting existing airplanes with autonomous technologies in much the identical way that Tesla started its journey into production by using existing eyeglasses for aircraft as opposed to designing its own.
“We spent the first portion of our flight test program focused on the C172. We thoroughly tested every element of our own system in simulation and conducted rigorous safety checks before working the aircraft with no pilot and are proud to share what we’ve already been working on,” said Rose, in a statement.
The company began with the Cessna 172 Skyhawk but awakened into the bigger Cessna 208 Caravan. The Caravan, which can be intended as a passenger plane, is also used by logistics companies including FedEx for shipping. In June, the company revealed a fully distant landing to the Caravan over the San Jose strategy route — a particularly heavily trafficked route.
“There’s never been a privately funded program that’s ever done anything like this before,” said Rose.
Enabling remote piloting and automating certain facets of flight has tremendous potential to drive down prices and enhance efficiencies within an industry that’s fighting with multiple stresses.
“Automated aircraft will essentially change the entire airline business, and Reliable Robotics is well positioned to be a key player within this new market,” said David Neeleman, also a creator of numerous commercial airlines including JetBlue (and also an investor in Reliable Robotics).
The company’s autonomous platform can be applied to any fixed wing aircraft, but Reliable’s co-founder and principal executive doesn’t expect to be selling parts. Rather, Reliable Robotics will operate and interrogate aircraft as a service for its customers, Rose explained.
“Initially, by requirement, we’re going to have to operate this as a service,” said Rose. “The certificate of systems for air. If you want to operate from the airspace you have to certify your maintenance plan, your processes … that the entire company needs to be certified by the FAA… If for your first-time someone operates a aircraft with no pilot on board which entire business is going to get to become certified. At least for the first few years we see that this being operated as a service. ”
Reputable conducted its initial retrofit and flight on a Cessna Caravan possessed by FedEx, which functions around 235 airplanes in its fleet, according to Rose. A lot of other shipping companies also utilize the Caravan for air cooling.
“There’s a communication component, a floor system, a control center for operating the item. It’s a vertically integrated enterprise,” Rose explained. “Integrated hardware which allows us to control flight systems and access telemetry and information [and ’s] incorporated into a custom made computer that can process fly the aircraft and incorporated into a floor network so a pilot within our control center may oversee the operations of the plane. ”
Rose stated the pitch to customers is raising pilot usage. “How do the economics change when [pilots] can teleport from 1 aircraft of the following after they’re finished flying? ” Rose explained. “Our program enables you to more efficiently use the pilot and more effectively use the aircraft. ”
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