The future of autonomous urban air mobility—vehicles aside—rests on two major elements: “AI [artificial intelligence], and a full-time, mission-critical data connection between ground and the vehicle; the whole model for how they’re operated depends on full-time access to connectivity.” That was the message from Dan Schwinn, founder and CEO of Avidyne, yesterday at EAA AirVenture’s Breakfast with Innovators.
Schwinn said Avidyne recently began working with Daedalean AI, a Swiss company developing autonomous flight controls for “electric personal aircraft of the near future.” Earlier this month, Daedalean mounted sophisticated cameras on an Avidyne Cessna 180, and Schwinn flew multiple approaches to gather data the company will use to create algorithms for teaching an AI system how to pilot an aircraft.
Some 155 companies are currently working on such systems using a variety of models, Schwinn said, all “attempting to determine what the winning configurations are going to be.”
Short of piloting an aircraft, such AI systems “might be useful for the aftermarket as a safety-increasing retrofit” as a pilot’s assistant, for example, recognizing airports in difficult visual conditions. “Autonomy is not black and white,” Schwinn said. “There are all kinds of autonomy functions.”