Look Ma, no hands! Garmin Aviation has reason to celebrate and reflect in a very satisfying way upon the decade of effort it made to bring the first autonomous landing system for light aircraft to fruition. On June 3, the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that Garmin’s Autoland system has won the 2020 Robert J. Collier Trophy, demonstrating “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year,” as noted on the NAA site.
The Collier Trophy dates back to 1911, and it honors in 2020 the “… designing, developing, and fielding Garmin Autoland—the world’s first certified autonomous system that activates during an emergency to safely control and land an aircraft without human intervention,” according to the NAA press release. Other contenders for the award illuminate the tough competition in the field for 2020: the Bell V-280 Valor, Boeing’s Confident Travel Initiative, Reliable Robotics Remotely Operated Aircraft System (ROAS), SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon 2, the US Department of the Air Force Green Propellant Infusion Mission Team, and Yates Electrospace Corporation’s Silent Arrow.
“The Garmin Autoland system marks a significant improvement in civil aviation,” said NAA chairman Jim Albaugh. “Its ability to take over an airplane with a disabled pilot and land it safely will save many lives in the future. It’s a remarkable technical achievement and clearly merits the Collier Trophy.”
The revolutionary system had relatively humble beginnings, according to Garmin: “Autoland began as a simple exploration to develop automation technology for general aviation aircraft,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and CEO. “This exploration resulted in the first automated system that can safely fly and land an aircraft in an emergency without human intervention. It is a tremendous honor for Autoland to be recognized as one of the greatest achievements in aviation history. We owe this accomplishment to the many Garmin associates who dedicated themselves to creating this game-changing aviation safety technology.”
Garmin worked in concert with partners at several aircraft OEMs to bring the system to life, including the first FAA certification with Piper Aircraft’s M600/SLS Halo, the first EASA certification with Daher’s TBM 940 HomeSafe, and the first jet certification in Cirrus Aircraft’s Vision Jet Safe Return.