Virginia-based company tests robotic co-piloted planes

Virginia-based company tests robotic co-piloted planes (Tim Barber/ABC7)

MANASSAS, Va. (WJLA) - You have probably heard about cars that drive themselves -- but what about planes?

Manassas-based company, Aurora, is working on that today.

This week, the company’s team of engineers celebrated their first test flight. A video, that was shot by Aurora, shows the robot flying a Cessna Caravan 7,000 feet above Virginia at 105-knots.

"We have been working on this for many, many months," said Chief Engineer Larry Rogers. “It was very exciting.”

Rogers and his team have been working on the robot since Aurora won nearly $20-million in federal grant money in 2014.

Cameras above the cockpit act as the robot’s eyes. They tell the “arm” what to push, pull and turn so it can fly the plane.

If the robot fails, a lever disengages it so the pilot can take control.

Aurora CEO & Chairman John Langford believes robots will change the nature of the pilot’s job, but not replace it entirely.

"The idea is to make a robotic co-pilot. It can go in just about any kind of airplane," said Langford.

Right now, the company has a robot in the Cessna Caravan, another in a Diamond DA42 (a twin engine prop), and a third in a Bell Huey helicopter.

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