Garmin has introduced the first Autoland system for general aviation aircraft.
The autonomous flight technology is designed to land an aircraft when the pilot can’t, according to company officials.
In the event of an emergency, the Autoland system determines the most optimal airport and runway, taking into account factors such as weather, terrain, obstacles, and aircraft performance statistics, officials explained.
Autoland will soon be available as part of the G3000 integrated flight deck on the Cirrus Vision Jet and the Piper M600, pending FAA certification.
“Today, aviation is forever changed as we introduce one of the industry’s most significant innovations – the first Autoland system for general aviation aircraft,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin president and CEO.
In the event of an emergency, the pilot or passengers can activate Autoland to land the aircraft with a press of a dedicated button. Autoland can also activate automatically if the system determines it’s necessary, according to Garmin officials.
Once activated, the system calculates a flight plan to the most suitable airport, initiates an approach to the runway and automatically lands the aircraft – without pilot or passenger intervention.
During an Autoland activation, the system takes into account a breadth of information and criteria, Garmin officials report. Factors taken into consideration when identifying the most suitable airport include weather, fuel on board, runway surface and length, terrain, obstacles, and more.
The availability of a GPS approach with lateral and vertical guidance to the runway is also required when the system is considering various airports and runways.
The system also automatically communicates with air traffic control (ATC), advising controllers and pilots operating near the aircraft of its location and its intentions.
Throughout an Autoland activation, the system provides simple visual and verbal communications in plain language so passengers in the aircraft know what to expect. The flight displays show the aircraft’s location on a map alongside information such as the destination airport, estimated time of arrival, distance to the destination airport, and fuel remaining.
Airspeed, altitude and aircraft heading are also labeled in an easy-to-understand format. Passengers also have the option to communicate with ATC by following instructions on the display using the touchscreen interface on the flight deck.
The Garmin Autothrottle system is used to automatically manage aircraft speed, engine performance and engine power so the aircraft can climb, descend or maintain altitude as needed during an Autoland activation. On approach to land, the system initiates a controlled descent to the airport.
If the aircraft needs additional time to descend or slow down during the approach, the Autoland system initiates a standard holding procedure and extends the landing gear and flaps. Once in landing configuration, the aircraft begins its descent to the runway. On the runway, automatic braking is applied while tracking the runway centerline to bring the aircraft to a full stop. Engine shutdown is also automated so occupants can safely exit the aircraft.
At any time, a pilot can easily deactivate an Autoland activation, Garmin officials note. With a single press of the “AP” autopilot key on the autopilot controller or the autopilot disconnect button on the controls, an Autoland activation can be canceled.
The flight display shows a message that confirms Autoland has been deactivated and in the event of an accidental deactivation, the system shows passengers how to reactivate Autoland if needed.
Garmin Autonomí, a family of automated flight technologies, encompasses Autoland, Emergency Descent Mode (EDM) and Electronic Stability and Protection (ESP). These technologies add to the safety enhancing tools and capabilities of a Garmin-equipped flight deck, company officials said. For example, in the event an aircraft loses pressurization, EDM is capable of automatically descending the aircraft to a preset altitude without pilot intervention to help avert hypoxic situations, they explained.
ESP further enhances the Autonomí suite by working to assist the pilot in avoiding unintentional flight attitudes beyond that for normal flight. ESP works in the background while the pilot is hand flying the aircraft to help pilots avoid inadvertent flight attitudes or bank angles. Should the pilot become inattentive while hand-flying the aircraft and exceed pre-determined pitch, roll or airspeed limitations, Garmin ESP activates and the pilot will feel pressure on the flight controls that guide him back to a recommended flight limit.