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Xwing Unveils Plans for Autonomous Cargo Operations

Autonomous flight technology pioneer Xwing says it has already made more than 70 pilotless takeoffs and landings in a converted Cessna 208B Grand Caravan. Unveiling the aircraft on Thursday at Buchanan Field Airport in California, the startup said it intends to start regional cargo operations on routes of up to 500 miles as part of its plan to prove the use case for autonomous operations.

According to Xwing, which has secured an FAA Part 135 air carrier certificate for drone cargo deliveries, initial operations with a pilot on board will begin “in the coming months.” Subject to FAA approval, the company hopes to debut autonomous operations in late 2021 or early 2022, although these will initially be conducted with a remote operator on the ground, mainly to handle interactions with air traffic controllers.

Xwing has been developing its Autoflight System for four years. It consists of detect-and-avoid sensors to analyze airborne and ground-based hazards and navigation and control software to generate optimal flight paths, interface with ATC, monitor the health of aircraft systems, and deal with operational contingencies.

For more than 12 months, the California-based company has been participating in the NASA-led program to evaluate the use of unmanned aircraft systems in the National Airspace System.

This story comes from the new FutureFlight.aero resource developed by AIN to provide objective, independent coverage and analysis of new aviation technology, including electric aircraft developments.