Flying story of aerospace engineering is a unique technology. Design, manufacturing and control are broad topics of aerospace engineering. In aircraft there are a lot of parameters that need to be controlled during flight. Weather conditions, flying systems and emergency issues are a few of them. Some of them requires deeply focus on systems. Because of that autopilot system has developed in aerospace engineering.
Autopilot is a system that helps control of aircraft during flight. It does not replace pilot. It has major differences against unmanned air vehicles. Unmanned air vehicles have different control units and systems. But autopilot uses only data to assist pilot in aircraft.
Operation capabilities of autopilot systems have major developments in last decades. Axis count that is controlled in autopilot system defines its technology generation. First generation of autopilot technologies can control only one axis movement of aircraft. They are named as wing levelers. Second generation of autopilot technologies can control two axis of aircraft. They have correction ability. Modern autopilot technologies (which can be defined as third generation) have more complex capabilities that can control three axis of aircraft. Landing, take off and cruise phases of flight can be controlled by using autopilot.
Autopilot technology operate as a part of Flight Management Computer (FMC) system. In the future most of the operations can be controlled by FMC. Anti collision systems, maneuver capabilities and validation of flight details are some operations that can be controlled by next era of Flight Management Computer system.
In last decade autopilot technologies has two sides. One of them is aircraft and another one is ground equipment. In this manner landing equipment of airports can be part of autopilot systems. In this manner instrument aided landings are one of the categories in aircrafts.
In the future, GPS assisted and emergency situation autopilot can be used in aircrafts. During any crash or hijack situation autopilot system’s “Go Home” function can activate automatically. This technology is partly used in todays aircraft technology. If there is a critical change about altitude or operation data autopilot control aircraft.
There are a lot of movies about novel aircrafts. In the sci-fi movies amazing autopilot capabilities led to have unmanned passenger aircraft. But in real life it is not possible yet. Control requirement of any aircraft and decision making situations are only a few challenges in aircrafts. There are major avionics in aircrafts. But any of technology can not decide about any situation. So it is not possible to have unmanned passenger aircraft flight in near future.
Beyond ease of operations, it is more important to control aircraft by pilotage capabilities. Since its complex background and risky nature of flight require pilotage experience during critical situations. Because of that training of pilots for all conditions is more important in aerospace engineering.
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