General aviation autoland system sees the runway

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Automatic landings at outback airstrips are now a prospect, with the demonstration of a machine-vision based autoland system for general aviation aircraft that requires no ground infrastructure.

Researchers from the technical Universities of Braunschweig and Munich, in Germany have been working on the C2Land project with the support of the German Federal Government.

The Braunschweig team designed an optical reference system using a visible light camera and an infrared camera that can see in low visibility conditions. Specially developed image processing software lets the system determine where the aircraft is relative to the runway based on information from the cameras.

The Munich team developed the automatic control system for the research aircraft, a modified Diamond DA-42. The aircraft was already equipped with two systems developed by the university: a fly-by-wire flight control system and a digital autopilot with greater control authority than an off-the-shelf autopilot connected mechanically to the controls. For automatic landing, additional functions were added to the software, including comparison of data from the cameras with GPS signals, and calculation of a virtual glide path for landing approach.

Last month the C2Land project announced a successful test landing by the DA-42 at Wiener Neustadt in Austria. The aircraft lined up, lowered flaps, gear and flared without pilot input. However, as a system integrated with fly-by-wire and an advanced autopilot, it is not retrofittable to current general aviation aircraft.

‘Automatic landing is essential, especially in the context of the future role of aviation,’ Technical University of Munich research associate Martin Kügler said. He nominated automated freight aircraft and autonomous flying taxis as two future aviation sectors that would require the technology.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Oh boy this is a BAD move! We will end up with a generation of ‘skill-less’ pilots not to mention this will entice VFR drivers to break the rules big time 24/7!
    Dumbest idea yet, hope CASA slam this one big time!

  2. ROCKY. APR 1ST 2019 @ 1852 pm not a lot to say on this one ! not a good idea for vfr operations for 2 reasons , firstly, the cost of installing all that is needed would b a total waste of hard earned cash., and secondly, vfr pilots should not b landing on out back airstrips in marginal weather, or after last light . but i might add, it would b a bonus for ifr charter operations !

  3. I can’t help suspecting that Walter (maybe Rocky too) has missed the point. We will end up not with a generation of skill-less pilots, but with a generation of pilotless aircraft. I’ll mourn it as much as you guys; but whether it’s 5, 15 or 50 years in the making, it’s coming.

  4. Good point James. Possibly not in this generation’s lifetime but certainly in the future we will see lots of auto cars, planes, ships ,trains et al.. I do agree with Walter(did I really say that !!) and Rocky who make valid points based on current technology..

    • ……………….careful Jack you are in danger of becoming normal!:-):-) But I don’t expect many to agree to my views, most are ‘sheep’ in here anyway:-)
      Human-less transport is a LONG way off, we won’t see it in our lifetime or the next. Pilotless machines have been flying for ages so the technology isn’t the issue (other than EP which is totally inadequate for large scale commercial operations) it’s the authorities & insurance Co’s that are the stumbling blocks!
      Aviation in it’s basic format hasn’t changed much at all since the Wrong Bros first took to the skies, Hydrocarbon propulsion will be with us till the demise of the planet!

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