Xwing Flies Cessna Caravan Autonomously

Company sees a future for autonomous cargo flights.

After operating in stealth mode for the last four years, San Francisco-based Xwing said in a news release last week it has carried out a number of passenger-carrying flights from takeoff to landing using a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan. Xwing’s Autoflight System retrofits existing aircraft into optionally piloted vehicles, “by integrating with onboard flight control systems that allow the aircraft to navigate, take off and land autonomously, ensuring more cost-effective operations for logistic companies.” The system is designed to be supervised by remote operators who work with air traffic controllers to ensure safety throughout the flight.

Xwing says it has completed a large volume of testing on its Caravan with thousands of simulation runs, software system tests, and flight tests that include low and high-speed ground taxi tests, takeoffs, navigation in the airspace, detect-and-avoid tests, and landings. Since July, Xwing has completed more than 70 hours of engine time for ground and flight tests, and more than 40 hours of automated flight time.

Xwing says it has obtained a Part 135 Air Carrier certificate and wants to begin commercial cargo flight operations in the coming months. Xwing expects to deploy its technology to market more quickly by operating its own fleet, but it’s open to future partnership and licensing opportunities with other operators to make the technology more widely available. The company says its business model increases aircraft operator utilization by 3 times, equating to a 20 to 30 percent cost savings in for the $142.4B US air cargo transportation market.

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