An Aviation First: Remotely Piloted Unmanned Cessna Caravan

In a groundbreaking development for the aviation industry, a Cessna 208B Caravan was flown with no one on board by US aircraft automation systems firm, Reliable Robotics. This marks a significant advancement for remotely piloted commercial aircraft in the United States.


The Flight

The Cessna 208B Caravan took off in November 2023 and was operated by a remote pilot in Reliable Robotics’ control center located 50 miles away. The remote pilot in the control center instructed the upgraded Cessna 208 Caravan to taxi, take off, maneuver over a populated region, and land while communicating with nearby air traffic through the aircraft’s onboard radios.


The Significance

This achievement is an impressive technical feat for commercial aviation, coming years before many in the industry expected. Operating from a control center increases safety margins, reduces workload, and enables pilots to focus on communications and complex decision-making. Reliable Robotics debuted its advanced autoflight system on a Cessna 172 in 2019. This recent exhibition underscores the flexibility in their approach to autonomy by fully integrating the same system with the larger Cessna Caravan.

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The Future

The test flights serve to advance the company’s main objective of certifying its system for use on any aircraft. With regulatory oversight and experimental approval to fly remotely piloted aircraft, the company plans incremental certification with gradually increasing autonomy. Reliable Robotics aims to be the first to bring automated air transportation to the cargo market. The company's leadership, which includes veterans from the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 programs, is developing the system’s human interface and cybersecurity framework.


The successful flight of the uncrewed Cessna Caravan marks a new era in aviation. As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for remote and autonomous flight are expanding, promising a future where air travel is safer, more efficient, and more accessible.

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