What makes a Great Autopilot?

F-105B AvionicsSometimes a pilot just needs to kick back and relax, maybe even take a quick nap … and that’s what autopilots are for.  Sort of.  These technical marvels allow the operators of planes, boats, and fancy cars to automated some of their regular chores, so they can attend to other things while moving along with out worrying about stuff like parallel parking or navigation. They’re useful and good to have – but what makes a really great one?  We looking into that very question to enable the pilots and mission specialists of Ice City to complete their work with panache!

ICITY’s BA2 aircraft prototype employs a basic autopilot inspired by the multi-axial systems used in many types of helicopters (a good fit for controlling the aircraft during construction work while city building).  These systems allow helicopters to “stabilize” pitch, roll, and yaw while in-flight, regulate hover and altitude, and generally smooth things out while conducting tricky manoeuvres such as loading a long line or slinging cargo.  It’s a good system for the BA2 and works well, and the plan is to improve upon it for the BA2 V2 upgrade now under development (whoops … we’ve let the cat out of the bag … yup, we’re working on a BA2 V2 package which will upgrade the flight management system, mission control panels, and autopilot system).

The BA2 V2 autopilot will move toward greatness by allowing pilots to customize the type of systems automated and the sensitivity of the control inputs, while maintaining a simple and clear user-interface.  Awesome.  But we also want it to be Great, so here’s our question to you … what makes a great autopilot?  Please leave your suggestions or feedback below!

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