Commercial aircraft have been making autonomous landings for decades, but they’re typically only able to do so thanks to instrument landing systems (ILS), which use a combination of radio signals from ground-based antennae and autopilot tech built into the plane to guide it to a safe landing.
ILS systems are generally confined to larger airports. That means aircraft often can’t fly at smaller airfields if visibility is too low for a human pilot to see what they’re doing. It also means we’re going to need to come up with a better system if we want autonomous flying taxis to be able to land wherever passengers want.
Now, a team of German researchers has developed a landing system that lets an aircraft land autonomously on virtually any runway — and they demonstrate their remarkable tech in a nerve-wracking new video.
The researchers’ C2Land system includes two cameras: one for visible light and one for infrared light for conditions with low visibility. These cameras work with image-processing software to determine the aircraft’s position in relation to the runway.
In May, the team tested C2Land using a modified Diamond DA42 airplane equipped with an advanced autopilot system, and thankfully for test pilot Thomas Wimmer, it worked just as they hoped.
“The cameras already recognize the runway at a great distance from the airport,” Wimmer said in a press release. “The system then guides the aircraft through the landing approach on a completely automatic basis and lands it precisely on the runway’s centerline.”
READ MORE: German Scientists Pull Off Truly Autonomous Aircraft Landing in Stunning Video [Science Alert]
More on flying taxis: Uber Air Offers First Look Inside Its Flying Taxi