SAN FRANCISCO—The autonomous aviation company Xwing has submitted a Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP) to the FAA, becoming the first Standard Category large unmanned aerial system to receive official project designation. This marks the beginning of the process for approval of uncrewed commercial cargo operations in the national airspace.
Unlike other aviation projects that focus on augmenting piloted operations with autonomous technology or have Special Category certification, Xwing’s Superpilot technology integrates into existing type-certified aircraft to enable unmanned operations that work within the existing air traffic control system. Superpilot harnesses advanced AI and machine learning technologies to become the world’s first fully autonomous, gate-to-gate flight technology.
The company’s PSCP submission is the result of years of collaboration between Xwing and FAA officials to develop a certification plan for UAS approval. With project designation, Xwing is now on a recognized path toward regulatory approval for unmanned commercial cargo flights. This process represents the first time the FAA has assigned resources to a UAS for a Standard Category airworthiness certificate. Although focused on air cargo operations, Superpilot will be benchmarked against the current aviation safety standards for passenger aircraft, among the highest standards of avionic safety.
“Xwing is leading the way for aviation automation with a pragmatic approach to compliance and safety,” said Earl Lawrence, the chief compliance and quality officer at Xwing. “Adherence to the existing regulatory framework, our operational expertise as an air carrier, and use of already certified aircraft, enables us to meet the high safety standards required in aviation today. With the ability to work transparently within the air traffic control system, Xwing’s technology has the potential to take safety to an even higher level.”
The company’s pragmatic approach to autonomous system development is accelerating the introduction of complete autonomy within air cargo. Upon certification, Xwing’s Superpilot system has the potential to improve flight operations by:
- Making high-risk flight phases safer: Xwing is the first certification project to use AI and machine learning to improve the safety of taxi, takeoff and landing, the highest-risk phases of commercial aviation.
- Increasing overall flight safety: Xwing’s automation of all phases of flight with “human on-the-loop” supervision improves safety by combining the ability to communicate in real-time with air traffic control and other aircraft with sensors that can continuously see in the dark, in all weather, and in sun glare.
- Reducing operational costs: Without a pilot tied to a physical aircraft, it is possible to reduce pilot costs and fly the aircraft more often, yielding more ROI per aircraft.
- Connecting more communities: Improving the economics of small aircraft operations and enabling flexible scheduling, cargo carriers can meet the needs of their rural and super-rural customers and offer more access to affordable express cargo options for local businesses.
The news arrives as airlines continue to struggle with pilot shortages, with United Airlines announcing it expects carriers will need 10,000 new pilots this year but only has 6,000 qualified candidates.
Simultaneously, e-commerce sales are set to top $6.3 trillion this year, increasing demand for regional transportation and delivery services. Together with its logistics partners, Xwing plans to bridge this gap in the market upon certification.