An intuitive AI tool has enabled a small plane with human passengers on-board to land by “sight” at Austria’s Diamond Aircraft airfield.
Developed by researchers at the technical universities of Braunschweig and Munich, the software interprets the runway visually and then adjusts the plane’s flight controls accordingly, without human interference.
The system can detect the normal visible spectrum, as well as infrared light, meaning it can overcome foggy weather conditions that could make it more challenging for a human pilot to locate the runway.
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In addition, the technology does not require the radio signals provided by the Instrument Landing System (ILS). Often, smaller airports are at a disadvantage as the installation of the costly equipment is not always financially viable, and can consequently suffer from interference.
Dr David Leslie, at the Alan Turing Institute, said the innovation could possible be incorporated into a “portfolio” of systems that could enhance flight safety.
However, Battista Biggio, at the University of Cagliari, also said that the new technology could leave planes vulnerable to hackers by attempting to sabotage the AI.
He explained that this could potentially be carried out by placing markings on the ground in order to deceive the AI pilot into believing a runway was visible when it was not.
Yet Dr Leslie said he felt this was unlikely. “Automation doesn’t necessarily mean that the pilot would be any less in control of the flight – it could mean that they’re more well supported by the technologies to land the plane,” he said.
Although Boeing has already successfully completed a fully autonomous landing, there were no human passengers on board at the time.