Aurora Flight Sciences has successfully demonstrated fully autonomous takeoffs and landings on a general aviation aircraft.
Tests have been underway since March using a company-owned Cessna 337 configured as an “optionally piloted” aircraft testbed known as “Chiron.” The flights were conducted under the FAA Experimental category and took place near Aurora’s headquarters in Manassas, Va. A safety pilot and a test engineer were onboard the aircraft at all times. according to company officials.
“While Aurora has routinely operated vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft in a fully autonomous mode, this marks the first time we have performed fully autonomous takeoffs and landings in a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) configuration,” said Rob Searle, chief engineer.
The technology will be incorporated in several upcoming Aurora programs, most notably a high-altitude, long-endurance technology demonstrator known as Orion.