Diamond Aircraft reports that it has successfully demonstrated a fly-by-wire autoland system in its DA42 four-seat twin. The fully autonomous system has been in the works since at least 2012, when AOPA first reported on it. The system, which Diamond once dubbed an “electronic parachute,” is designed as an emergency backup in situations such as pilot incapacitation or engine failure. The system can be activated by either the pilot or the airplane. For example, if the airplane’s software detects that the airplane is nearing its destination but there have been no pilot inputs, the autoland kicks in.
What follows is an approach and landing at the nearest suitable airport using GPS navigation and radar altimeter inputs. The system uses autothrottles to control power changes, as well as extend flaps and landing gear to bring the airplane to a landing. In the future, an autobrake function will be provided.
The University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Aviation Systems conducted the initial flight test at Diamond’s Wiener Neustadt, Austria, home airport. (Watch a video of the flight.) Diamond’s ultimate goal is to extend flight envelope protection and other fly-by-wire technologies to other general aviation applications, and it has involved in an international consortium of European aviation interests to pursue these goals.
Early in the concept phase, Diamond said that the autoland system would be a $100,000 option; more recently the company priced the system at 10 percent of the DA42’s base price. Diamond has been vague about the date of the autoland system’s entry into service. Originally, it was predicted to happen in 2016.