Reliable Robotics Corp. yesterday announced that the U.S. Air Force has awarded it a contract to explore the automation of large, multi-engine jets. The study will include a feasibility assessment of full and limited aircraft automation features for cargo operations.
Remotely piloted aircraft would enable the Air Force to increase mission tempo worldwide, use a certifiable commercial system for defense needs at fractional costs, and extend aircraft capabilities, said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
“We value the Air Force as an essential mission partner,” stated Dr. David O’Brien, a retired major general and senior vice president of government solutions at Reliable Robotics.
“Our vision is to provide remote piloting capability to a wide variety of aircraft,” he said. “This contract furthers our focus on automation of large, multi-engine jet aircraft, which is an important step in our developmental roadmap.”
Air Force interested in remote piloting
Founded in 2017, Reliable Robotics claimed that its automation system enables safe, remote operation of any aircraft type. The global company said its vision is “to transform the way we move goods and people around the planet with safer, more convenient, and more affordable air transportation.”
Reliable Robotics is developing a certifiable system that enables continuous autopilot engagement through all phases of flight, including taxi, takeoff, and landing with a remote pilot supervising operations. Higher-precision navigation, sophisticated flight-planning capabilities, and more robust flight controls enable better management of aircraft and environmental conditions, said the company.
The technology can also improve safety with or without onboard crew, Reliable Robotics said. Once certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the company said its system will reduce the occurrence of common causes of fatal aviation accidents, such as controlled flight into terrain and loss of control.
“Headquarters Air Force Mobility Functional Integration Team supports the efforts of Reliable Robotics and the development of their aircraft automation systems,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Sean R. McClune. “Reliable provides capabilities that will help close logistical gaps so that the United States Air Force can execute their role within the Joint Warfighting Concept.”
“We are interested in Reliable Robotics, not only for their effectiveness in supporting the warfighter in contested logistics, but also for their novel approach of outfitting legacy aircraft with cutting-edge automation kits,” he said. “This is of great value to the U.S. government because it will help solve the demand of short- to medium-range point-to-point logistics without the need to manufacture new aircraft, which will ensure critical logistics are available at speed and scale to all regions of the country.”
Reliable Robotics works with governments, companies on safety, connectivity
Reliable Robotics previously received a Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to demonstrate the performance and safety of remotely piloted aircraft in more operating environments.
As part of a Phase II SBIR contract, the company demonstrated how its aircraft-agnostics design can be quickly adapted to new airframes thorugh simulated and real-world flight tests.
Reliable Robotics also worked with Nairobi, Kenya-based Astral Aviation to increase safety and air cargo connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa with autonomous aircraft.
In December 2022, Reliable Robotics partnered with ASL Aviation Holdings to choose an twin-engine turboprop freighter and explore the use of automated aircraft. The companies planned to jointly assess the demand for remotely operated aircraft in Europe.
Dublin, Ireland-based ASL operates cargo services for leading express parcel integrators and online retailers. Its seven airlines include ASL Airlines Ireland, ASL Airlines Belgium, ASL Airlines France, and ASL Airlines United Kingdom in Europe. ASL also has joint ventures with FlySafair in South Africa, K-Mile Asia in Thailand, and Quikjet Airlines in India. The group also includes several leasing entities.