Reliable’s autopilot flies first solo mission



Reliable Robotics’ autonomous flight system has flown solo for the first time.

Last month, Reliable’s Cessna 208B Caravan flew with no one onboard supervised by a remote pilot sat in a control centre over 50 miles away – a first for aviation. The system is aircraft agnostic and uses multiple layers of redundancy and advanced navigation technology. The system will prevent controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and loss of control in flight (LOC-I), which account for the majority of fatal aviation accidents. 

“This monumental aviation achievement is a great example of how AFWERX accelerates agile and affordable capability transitions for the world’s greatest Air Force,” Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX Director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force. “This milestone accelerates dual-use uncrewed flight opportunities, increasing aviation safety and enabling us to bring a broad range of autonomous military capabilities into denied environments.”

Reliable Robotics and the US Air Force are working together to work out how autonomous technology can be applied to large multi-engine aircraft for cargo logistics, aerial refuelling and other missions. Reliable has been working under a series of contracts with the Air Force since 2021.

Textron Aviation’s Cessna Caravan, and other regional cargo aircraft like it, serve an essential role connecting communities and businesses across the US and around the world. With a useful load of over 3,000lbs, and a take-off performance to operate from shorter runways, these aircraft deliver time-sensitive shipments to many places that would otherwise not have next-day or same-day service.

“Textron Aviation is committed to delivering continuous aviation improvements and our relationship with Reliable Robotics advances this work,” said Chris Hearne, SVP of Engineering and Programs, Textron Aviation. “Reliable’s successful flight of an uncrewed Cessna 208 Caravan represents a milestone for the industry in bringing new technology to aviation.”

The FAA formally accepted the certification plan for Reliable’s flight system back in the summer. The certification plan uses existing regulations for normal and transport category aircraft, and does not require any special conditions or exemptions.

Partner ASL Aviation Holdings has been working with Reliable since 2022 to explore the use of advanced aircraft automation in its operations. ASL operates a fleet of over 160 aircraft and provides cargo services for the leading express parcel integrators and eCommerce platforms.

Dave Andrew chief executive of ASL Aviation Holdings said: “ASL is always innovating to better serve customers, and our partnership with Reliable Robotics is aimed at enabling us to provide reliable, flexible and cost-efficient time-sensitive cargo delivery to smaller unserved areas. This historic flight is a testament to Reliable’s focused leadership in advancing aviation innovation and capability for the industry.”