Forget that shiny new octocopter, a Bay-area startup wants to make your Cessna 172 autonomous. XWing says it has created “plug and play” software that can make most light aircraft fly autonomously. Details on how it works have not been released but the technology will revolve around “sensing, reasoning and control,” according to aviation tech website TransportUP. It will also work on helicopters and multicopters but its designer sees its main benefit as making GA accessible to the masses. According to XWing founder Marc Piette the key is getting rid of pilots. “Getting a license and maintaining proficiency even on a single [-engine] aircraft type is time consuming and challenging,” he said in a post on his website. “Removing the need for a pilot will have a significant impact in opening up the aviation market.”
Piette says that by eliminating pilots more people will be attracted to aircraft ownership and that will increase demand for small planes. The higher volumes will reduce production costs and make GA aircraft more affordable, Piette theorizes. “We see a bright future where people and places are ever more connected, where small aircraft can finally take their rightful place in the transportation landscape, and where autonomous flight will have a profound impact on society as we know it,” he wrote. Apparently some investors are seeing that bright future as TransportUP is reporting XWing has attracted $4 million in initial investment, including some from Microsoft.