When it comes to developing a certifiable autonomous aircraft, regulatory unknowns are as daunting as any technical challenge. (At least in the West — China may be adifferent story.) Last year, The Air Current described how three autonomous aircraft startups were pursuingmarkedly different strategies based on their divergent expectations for what the Federal Aviation Administration would be willing to certify and when.
One of them is California-based Reliable Robotics, which has chosen to start its journey to autonomous flight with an advanced autopilot that supplements rather than replaces a human pilot in the cockpit. Reliable’s autopilot will be certified to a higher level of reliability than conventional automatic flight control systems and will be engaged for all phases of operation including taxi, takeoff and landing. The FAA formally accepted the certification basis for Reliable’s autopilot on the Cessna 208 Caravan in August 2022, and signed off on the certification plan in July.
Even as it progresses with its autopilot project, however, Reliable is actively laying the groundwork for future remotely piloted operations, as CEO Robert Rose discussed in a recent interview with TAC. Notably, the company has now elected to develop its own air-to-air radar for detect-and-avoid (DAA) purposes — a strategic decision that also reflects its conclusions about the near-term regulatory environment, and its prospects as a new industry supplier. Reliable officially revealed its radar program on October 27 with the announcement of a key hire, Marc Pos, who joins the company after more than two decades of radar development at Honeywell.
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