Aurora Flight Sciences has demonstrated its automated flight capabilities with various successful flight scenarios in a Boeing 737 simulator. The work, part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, leverages “a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would promote the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft, enabling operation with reduced onboard crew.”
Demonstrated on a 737-800NG simulator at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, MA, ALIAS showcased its ability to utilize the existing 737 auto-landing system to autonomously land an aircraft safely in the event of pilot incapacitation.
ALIAS includes the use of in-cockpit machine vision, robotic components to actuate the flight controls, an advanced tablet-based user interface, speech recognition and synthesis, and a knowledge-acquisition process that facilitates transition of the automation system to another aircraft within a 30-day period. Aurora is also working on a version of the system without robotic actuation that instead aims to support the pilot by tracking aircraft physical, procedural, and mission states, increasing safety by actively updating pilot situational awareness.
Aurora has previously successful installed and tested ALIAS components on a Diamond DA42, Cessna 208 Caravan, Bell UH-1 Iroquois, Sikorsky S-76 ,and DHC-2 Beaver aircraft. Aurora has also demonstrated ALIAS numerous times on aircraft in flight, most recently on the DA42. In the demonstration, ALIAS actualized DA42 cockpit procedures in real time and, overseen by an onboard safety pilot, conducted a fully automated landing at a simulated site at 3000 ft in altitude. (To read more about previous ALIAS program achievements, click here.)
ALIAS aims to leverage the advances made in aircraft automation systems over the past 50 years to support execution of an entire mission from takeoff to landing, even in the face of contingency events such as aircraft system failures. ALIAS utilizes persistent-state monitoring and rapid recall of flight procedures, to further enhance flight safety. Aurora’s ALIAS technology demonstration system is designed to function as a second pilot in a two-crew aircraft, enabling reduced crew operations while ensuring that aircraft performance and mission success are maintained or improved.