A Google-backed company is working on an autonomous airplane — though this doesn’t mean that the plane will fly itself fully automatically. Merlin Labs is working on technology where flight gear and the control panel on an airplane can function on its own. The company said it is building the definitive autonomy system for all things that fly. The company with the breakthrough technology had been in stealth mode until May 26 when it announced that it had raised $25 million (Rs. 181 crore) in funding from GV – formerly Google Ventures – and First Round Capital. It said that the team had executed hundreds of autonomous missions on multiple aircraft types, including complex twin-turboprop aircraft. The Merlin Labs autonomy platform is aircraft-agnostic, focuses on onboard autonomy rather than remote piloting and is being integrated into a wide variety of public and private-sector aircraft.
The Boston-based company has also announced a 55-aircraft partnership with Dynamic Aviation, the owners of the world’s largest private King Air fleet. On the same day, the company shared a video on YoutTube showing how it started working on the technology in 2018 and made its first successful landing in 2019.
In a statement, Matthew George, Merlin co-founder and CEO, said that the company is proud to partner with Dynamic to begin the process of moving autonomy from the lab and to the market.
Michael Stoltzfus, Dynamic Aviation CEO, said that they are honoured to have Merlin as the partner and will leverage this leading-edge technology in an operational platform.
On its website, Merlin Labs said that its goal is to enable an aircraft to make its own decisions, with a pilot present there just to monitor it. In the long term, the company seeks to “enable aircraft to fly safely without a human on board”.