Reliable Robotics makes strides on US Air Force autonomy solution


Reliable Robotics says it has made “significant progress” towards a working autonomy solution for the US Air Force.

As part of an Air Force-funded contract to assess automation of large aircraft for reduced crew and uncrewed solutions, Reliable Robotics undertook analyses to see if its Remotely Operated Aircraft System (ROAS) could feasibly work, with a particular focus on cargo logistics and refuelling capacity.

It is hoped remotely operating large multi-engine jets like the KC-135 Stratotanker will enable higher utilisation, more frequent deployment and almost continuous operation without the need for crew repositioning logistics. 

David O’Brien, major general (Ret.), and senior vice president of Government Solutions at Reliable Robotics, said: “At Reliable Robotics, we are obsessed with enabling previously unimaginable capabilities for the U.S. Air Force through autonomy. Automating existing inventory at fractional costs will provide commanders unprecedented flexibility and safety in meeting acute operational demands with the smallest deployed human footprint.”

Reliable’s most recent report reveals three positive findings:

  • The airframe Reliable looked at can accommodate required system upgrades with only small adjustments. Whilst navigation and communications upgrades will support expected future operating environments.
  •  Large remotely piloted military aircraft can be more efficient and operationally flexible versus commercial operations without the need to manufacture new aircraft.
  • The same levels of system reliability required under FAA certification can be achieved when the system is flying on these larger airframes in the US National Airspace System. 

A Michigan Air National Guard KC-135T is one of the potential recipients of Reliable’s ROAS. (credit: Munnaf Joarder)

Reliable’s certification plan was formally accepted by the FAA back in July. Speaking at the time, Reliable’s co-founder and CEO, Robert Rose told Revolution.Aero. The FAA has been a great partner. We are incredibly grateful for the guidance, knowledge, and expertise that the FAA have provided to Reliable in support of this important milestone.”

Rose said using existing regulations for normal and transport category aircraft, whilst not requiring any special conditions or exemptions, allows the firm to move through the plan faster. “A good example is with our autoland system. Although autoland systems exist today on some transport category aircraft, these require very costly ground infrastructure for them to work. Our system does not require this ground infrastructure, but we were still able to pull many of the same principles from these systems and adapt them for use in our certification plan,” he added.