Pilot-free plane in California conducts flight over San Jose: ‘Monumental aviation achievement’

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A California-based company announced recently it had successfully flown a small cargo plane with no pilot on board. 

Reliable Robotics, a maker of aircraft automation systems, called last month’s successful autonomous flight of a Cessna 208B Caravan with no one on board, was a first for the aviation industry. 

The flight of the Cessna 208B Caravan happened just outside San Jose on Nov. 21.

The Mountain View-based company said that a remote pilot supervised the pilot-less aircraft from Reliable’s control center 50 miles away. 

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The company added that it’s all part of the work they have been doing to bring advanced safety-enhancing technologies to market in the U.S.

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

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Cessna 208B Grand Caravan

Reliable Robotics has been working under a series of contracts with the Air Force since 2021, and the FAA formally accepted the certification plan for Reliable’s autonomous flight system in June 2023, the company said in a release.

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