This is Merlin Labs, a Boston-based company that teamed up with Dynamic Aviation to create a fleet of vehicles without human pilots capable of transporting passengers.
The startup from Boston, United States, Merlin Labs, backed by Google, announced its plans to implement 100% autonomous planes that can transport passengers. Days ago, the company explained how it would achieve this after a million-dollar investment round that bets on this type of innovation.
Merlin Labs is not building a physical airplane, flying car, or eVTOL but is developing fully autonomous airplanes to fly independently. Initial investors supporting the startup include Google Ventures and First Round Capital. The initial round of investments was USD 25 million.
With this funding, Merlin Labs plans to implement its autonomous technology in a fleet of King Air aircraft. The startup has partnered with Dynamic Aviation to create its fleet of autonomous aircraft without human pilots to achieve its goals.
The 55 King Air fleet is from Dynamic Aviation, which will work with the startup to test the autonomous technology. The main objective is to bring a certifiable autonomous system to fixed-wing aircraft.
The future of flights
The 55 King Air aircraft will offer 100% autonomous flights from takeoff to landing. This fleet will not have human pilots and, they assure, will be able to transport passengers. To achieve this, the startup works to offer an autonomous aircraft driving system through the development of artificial intelligence.
Thus, Merlin Labs wants to create the first autonomous flight system for large aircraft with fixed-wing, complying with aviation regulations. To achieve this, they are testing aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The startup has flight facilities there, in California.
As specified on their site, they are developing sophisticated software and hardware that perform the functions of a human pilot. So far, they point out that they have performed hundreds of takeoff-to-landing missions with thousands of hours of simulation.
The startup's platform has worked with four different types of aircraft, ranging from single-engine aircraft to complex multi-engine aircraft. But how to guarantee the safety of passengers in the future?
The company notes that it is working with some of the world's leading security experts to implement autonomy and integrate into the National Airspace System in partnership with regulators.
The technology used by the startup focuses on autonomy on board rather than remote piloting. Its ambitious short-term goal is to allow an aircraft to make its own decisions. A pilot maintains his presence for monitoring purposes. In the long term, they seek to allow planes to fly safely without a human on board.
It is important to understand that this innovation is not about autopilots, but rather autonomous aviation, a relatively new and growing field. In July 2019, the Technical University of Munich made its first landing 100% autonomously.
A year later, in August 2020, an Airbus A350 took off and landed autonomously during the pandemic. And now, this startup wants to offer its solution to other companies through its automatic pilot, with an advanced level of autonomous driving.