July 22, 2012
The original programmer of X-Plane, one of the most dynamic flight simulators and aircraft design tools commonly available, is creating an auto-land system for actual aircraft -- and he hopes to bring it to Oshkosh this year in his own Lancair Evolution. Austin Meyer is the founder of Laminar Research and the original programmer of X-Plane. He is currently developing, in coordination with Vertical Power, a real-world "artificially intelligent Runway-Seeker." The program is packaged into the Vertical Power VP-400 avionics system, which itself is designed to obviate multiple other systems, thus saving weight and complexity while reducing panel clutter. Once proven in testing, the package will be marketed to experimental aircraft operators ... first.
Meyer believes the VP-400 can replace the functionality of the L-3 Trilogy, Moritz display, and mechanical circuit breakers that could otherwise adorn the cockpit of an Evolution. According to Meyer, the runway-seeker is programmed to "choose the best landing site for you in the event of engine failure or pilot incapacitation, and even take you down to that runway on autopilot at the push of a single red button." When proven in real-world tests, Meyer and Vertical Power hope to see the product succeed in the experimental market and later, if demand exists, bring it to the certified market. Meyer's X-Plane has found use at Scaled Composites, Cessna, Boeing, and more manufacturers and is widely used by pilots, instructors and student pilots, too. As for the VP-400's appearance at Oshkosh, his timeline is tight. But if everything works as planned, Meyer hopes to arrive at Oshkosh this week with his Evolution and Runway Seeker project ready for an interested audience.