How Aircraft Autopilot Control System Works?

Although complex autopilot is a somewhat new and developing technology within the automotive industry, it may be surprising to some that this technology has existed in the realm of aviation for over 100 years. Although it has also taken much time to develop and continues to do so, the aircraft autopilot control system is a highly accurate and complex system and serves to ensure that flights are smooth, efficient, and safe. When flying, pilots have many jobs that they have to juggle from navigation, communication, responding to changes in weather, and even rerouting when unexpected conditions present themselves. With a smart computerized system like autopilot, pilots can have extra help to focus on what is most important in that moment.

Expanding on what was discussed before, autopilots are a computerized control system that has constant communication with various aircraft systems and equipment, and can be ordered to maintain set values for a variety of functions. If the pilot sets a determined speed, for example, the autopilot will frequently check and compare the actual speed of the aircraft to the set desired speed, and changes will constantly be made as needed to ensure that set speed is maintained. This is very similar to a car’s cruise control, though it can be used for many various functions depending on the need of the pilot.

More advanced autopilot may give the ability for a pilot to set a destination, and the system will control the aircraft to automatically fly towards the desired point. Coupling this with setting altitude control, climb and descent rate, and speed, most of the piloting can be accurately and safely done by the autopilot, sometimes even better than a human. This does not mean that the pilot does not have to pay attention however, as they still need to monitor the flight and ensure that the autopilot maneuvers correctly, and that they can make a change as the need arises. Pilots also have to control the taxiing and takeoff of the aircraft themselves as well, though technology may come in the future for autopilot to aid with this too.

In an aircraft that has more than twenty seats, it is international aviation regulation that an autopilot system is installed in an aircraft. As stated before, this is due to the fact that these systems can often produce very accurate and smooth control, often surpassing the ability of a human to correct small changes during flight. This also frees the pilot to focus on more important things that may come ahead, or be able to respond efficiently in the case of an emergency. As autopilot continues to develop, we may see more functions handed to the system to ensure that flights are as safe and optimal as possible.

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July 15, 2021

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