The NBAA has congratulated Garmin International on earning the prestigious 2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy for Garmin Autoland, the world's first certified emergency autonomous system to safely fly and land an aircraft without human intervention.
“The Garmin Autoland system marks a significant improvement in civil aviation,” says Jim Albaugh, chairman of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) in awarding the Collier Trophy. “Its ability to take over an aircraft with a disabled pilot and land it safely will save many lives in the future.”
Autoland can be activated automatically or by a passenger in the event of an emergency such as pilot incapacitation. Once activated, the system flies the aircraft to the most suitable nearby airport and runway, avoiding terrain and adverse weather, initiates a stabilised approach and lands the aircraft.
Following an in-aircraft Autoland demonstration last year, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen wrote to the NAA Collier Trophy Selection Committee to nominate the technology for the award. “After personally pushing a button at 10,000 ft over Kansas and coming to a full stop on the centreline of Johnson County Executive airport with no human input, I realised I had just experienced one of the greatest safety technologies in the history of aviation,” he writes.
To date, Autoland is installed in the Cirrus Vision SF50 G2 single-engine jet and Piper M600/SLS and Daher TBM 940 turboprop singles. Earlier this year, Garmin executive VP and MD of aviation Phil Straub discussed with NBAA the tremendous potential for autonomous systems to further enhance the safety of flight.
“Pilots are naturally prone to distraction, fixation, task saturation and loss of situational awareness, among other things,” he notes. “While computerised systems also have limitations, when blended and integrated properly with the crew, they provide for highly safe operation of the aircraft by offsetting the limitations of each other.”
First awarded in 1911, the Collier Trophy is awarded annually “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year,” according to NAA.
Past Collier recipients include Orville Wright, Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 team, the Gulfstream G650, the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) and Cessna Aircraft Company and the Citation X design team.
“Autoland began as a simple exploration to develop automation technology for general aviation aircraft,” reveals Cliff Pemble, Garmin president and CEO. “This exploration resulted in the first automated system that can safely fly and land an aircraft in an emergency without human intervention. It is a tremendous honour for Autoland to be recognised as one of the greatest achievements in aviation history. We owe this accomplishment to the many Garmin associates who dedicated themselves to creating this game- changing aviation safety technology.”