Garmin Autoland has been awarded the 2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy for what the company describes as the world’s first certified autonomous system designed to activate during an emergency to safely fly and land an aircraft without human intervention.
The Collier Trophy is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to recognize what it sees as the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. “The Garmin Autoland system marks a significant improvement in civil aviation,” said Jim Albaugh, Chairman, NAA. “Its ability to take over an airplane with a disabled pilot and land it safely will save many lives in the future. It’s a remarkable technical achievement and clearly merits the Collier Trophy.”
The six other nominees vying for the 2020 trophy included the Bell V-280 Valor; SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon 2; Boeing Confident Travel Initiative; Reliable Robotics Remotely Operated Aircraft System (ROAS); SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon 2; U.S. Department of the Air Force Green Propellant Infusion Mission Team; and Yates Electrospace’s Silent Arrow.
The five most recent prior recipients of the Collier Trophy include the teams behind the USAF Boeing X-37B; Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System; Cirrus Aircraft Vision Jet; Blue Origin New Shepard; and NASA/JPL Dawn Mission.
“Autoland began as a simple exploration to develop automation technology for general aviation aircraft,” said Cliff Pemble, president and CEO, Garmin. “This exploration resulted in the first automated system that can safely fly and land an aircraft in an emergency without human intervention. It is a tremendous honour for Autoland to be recognized as one of the greatest achievements in aviation history.”
Garmin explains in the event of an emergency, such as pilot incapacitation, a passenger can activate Autoland with a simple press of a dedicated button, should the pilot no longer be able to perform their duties as pilot in command. Autoland can also activate automatically if the system detects no pilot interaction. Once activated, Garmin explains the system immediately calculates a flight path to the most suitable airport and runway, while avoiding terrain and adverse weather, initiates a stabilized approach and automatically lands the aircraft.
In 2020, three aircraft received Type Certification with Garmin Autoland. Piper Aircraft received the first FAA Type Certification of Garmin Autoland on the M600 SLS in May 2020. In July 2020 DAHER completed the first European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification and the second FAA certification of Autoland on the TBM 940. Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision Jet, the 2017 Collier Trophy winner, was the first jet aircraft certified with Autoland in August 2020.