Xwing And Textron Team Up For Autonomous Flight Plan

Credit: Xwing

Textron Aviation and U.S. startup and autonomous aircraft specialist Xwing have signed a joint development technology agreement to accelerate the integration of autoflight technologies into existing and future aircraft.

Few details have been released about the agreement other than that Xwing will provide Textron with access to its autonomous technology and use cases. The San Francisco-based company is developing the capability to convert existing manned aircraft to remotely piloted or fully autonomous operation and is already using a Textron-built aircraft, a Cessna Caravan, as the basis for its first program.

The company is aiming to automate regional cargo feeder operations and has demonstrated autonomous gate-to-gate operation with its modified Caravan testbed. “Cessna Grand Caravan single-engine utility turboprops have long been Xwing’s aircraft of choice. Best-suited and reliable for the air cargo industry, Cessna’s Grand Caravan fleet has accumulated millions of flight hours. We look forward to playing a role in furthering the development of an autonomous aircraft using this platform as we reimagine the potential of autonomous technology within the aviation industry,” says Xwing founder and CEO Marc Piette.

The agreement with Textron, which produces both Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft, comes just days after Xwing and Inmarsat signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue development of dedicated satellite communications terminals and associated services for autonomous aircraft.

The system will use Inmarsat’s planned Velaris L-band connectivity service for unmanned aircraft. This will be powered by the mobile communications company’s new Elera global satellite network, which will be founded on the company’s sixth-generation I-6 satellites. The first of the Airbus-built L- and Ka-band spacecraft is scheduled for launch this year, with a second to follow in 2022.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.