The dream of self-driving cars might have to wait a little while longer. It appears that the processes involved are much more complicated than initially thought. What might be possible before self-driving vehicles are autonomous planes.
Full Aerial Autonomy
Together with Google Ventures, Merlin labs, which is a manufacturer of autonomous flight technology. Their goal is to develop the very first aerial vehicle that is genuinely autonomous–meaning that no human will occupy the cockpit or interfere with manual guiding on the ground or in the air!
Commercial passenger flights are already partially autonomous. Human pilots need to facilitate the takeoff; however, the remainder of the flight can pretty much be conducted on autopilot, a.k.a autonomous flying.
All this is made possible by a series of sensors on the plane that constantly monitors the vehicle for movement, returning data to its onboard computing system. Some of this technology has become so advanced that the aircraft can even be landed unassisted by humans.
What Will it Take?
We don’t even have to reinvent the wheel completely! Matt George, the CEO of Merlin Labs, was quoted as saying that if we can use existing tech and tap into the network of air traffic control systems, we can have a complete vision in the air employing radar technology.
In California, Mojave Air & Space Port has already served as the departure point for many simulated hours of test flights.
Merlin labs have also recently joined forces with Dynamic Vision–an aviation services contractor, to produce 55 autonomous cargo planes for the US Air Force. Test flights for this purpose have already been conducted to this effect.
Currently, the only hurdle will be getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use their software. It remains to be seen how difficult the support from the government agency will prove to be.
There is no denying that the prospect of flying and traveling to destinations in unmanned pilot craft is both scary and exhilarating at the same time!
Article source: SingularityHub