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Sit Back, Nvidia Tegra Can Land Your Plane

By - Source: Nvidia | B 26 comments

The Vertical Power VP-400 Runway Seeker does for planes what the car industry is trying to accomplish for cars: Take the pilot out of the equation and guide you safely to your destination without your interaction.

While there is much more to this device than just hardware, it is rather impressive what an ARM based processor is able to accomplish today. According to Nvidia, the Runway Seeker relies on a Colibri T20 Tegra module for all necessary calculations to take the plane on a path to the nearest airport and land it on a runway.

"As the plane flies, the Tegra calculates a glide path to every runway within range 30 times a second, taking into account factors such as wind speeds, runway lengths, terrain and potential obstacles," Nvidia wrote in a blog post. "For humans to estimate that in the middle of an emergency is very difficult to do, whereas it is relative easy and unemotional for a powerful microprocessor to do,” said Marc Ausman, co-founder of Vertical Power. There are plenty of other scenarios in which such a system could come in handy, especially for those pilots on rely on flying by sight.

Vertical Power said that the device also uses flight simulation software by X-Plane as well as a databases that describe airports, terrain, and any obstacles that could be encountered.


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  • 14 Hide
    azraa , December 3, 2012 1:15 PM
    Flying is for droids.

    -Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • 13 Hide
    rantoc , December 3, 2012 12:09 PM
    Even the simplest pocket calculator today have the computational power for this, just need the data to "crunch"
  • 13 Hide
    ddpruitt , December 3, 2012 12:39 PM
    Bleh.

    You take all of the spacecraft built up to and including the space shuttle and they had less computing power than an old Pentium, yet these things managed to land, navigate space, worked reliably for over 30 years.
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    rantoc , December 3, 2012 12:09 PM
    Even the simplest pocket calculator today have the computational power for this, just need the data to "crunch"
  • 11 Hide
    killerclick , December 3, 2012 12:10 PM
    They should do this for cargo planes first, less consequences if something goes wrong.
  • -7 Hide
    NuclearShadow , December 3, 2012 12:23 PM
    That is pretty cool but I think I would much rather prefer a human pilot despite this. With how airline workers are known to tend to strike I can only imagine how much push the airline companies will push to try to have it accepted by the FAA (and the other nations versions of such) to have them actually fly without a single human pilot.

    If you think I am being overly paranoid. The CEO of Ryanair wants to take not only seat belts out of planes but the seats themselves. The idea is you could herd and fit more people like cattle this way.
    What to do in the case of turbulence to avoid injury he gives no suggestions. If a airline company would be willing to put people in that much risk for profits would it not make sense for them to save money by removing the pilot and co-pilot and have a computer that they would not have to pay to do the same job and remove the chance of a worker strike?
  • 9 Hide
    scannall , December 3, 2012 12:34 PM
    This is a solution looking for a problem. Commercial aircraft have had this ability for quite some time now. It is neat though, in that it is an example of just how far technology has come in a relatively short period of time.
  • 13 Hide
    ddpruitt , December 3, 2012 12:39 PM
    Bleh.

    You take all of the spacecraft built up to and including the space shuttle and they had less computing power than an old Pentium, yet these things managed to land, navigate space, worked reliably for over 30 years.
  • 4 Hide
    SuperVeloce , December 3, 2012 12:51 PM
    yup, apollo worked on an abakus :) . Space Shuttles on 8086 and later on 80386
  • 8 Hide
    Anonymous , December 3, 2012 12:58 PM
    ddpruittBleh.You take all of the spacecraft built up to and including the space shuttle and they had less computing power than an old Pentium, yet these things managed to land, navigate space, worked reliably for over 30 years.


    I have a shovel that dates from before the Space Age, it still works, go figure!
  • 0 Hide
    Maxx_Power , December 3, 2012 1:13 PM
    Humans > Machines. We have creativity in problem solving, not just computational power. Should a plane be in trouble, I would MUCH prefer the creativity of humans to find a solution, usually outside the box.

    Any one here watches "Mayday" ?
  • 14 Hide
    azraa , December 3, 2012 1:15 PM
    Flying is for droids.

    -Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • -4 Hide
    ojas , December 3, 2012 1:23 PM
    Still can't play Crysis, can it? :p 
  • 2 Hide
    fuzzion , December 3, 2012 2:09 PM
    So not only can my smart phone watch porn, it can also land a plane? Awesome!
  • 1 Hide
    sliem , December 3, 2012 3:07 PM
    Maxx_PowerHumans > Machines. We have creativity in problem solving, not just computational power. Should a plane be in trouble, I would MUCH prefer the creativity of humans to find a solution, usually outside the box. Any one here watches "Mayday" ?


    True unless that human doesn't get enough sleep or too much sleep and then thinks the world is ending so why bother land the plane at all.
  • 1 Hide
    gearbhall , December 3, 2012 3:19 PM
    azraaFlying is for droids. -Obi-Wan Kenobi


    Well played sir, well played.
  • 0 Hide
    freggo , December 3, 2012 3:40 PM
    Finding an airport and landing on it are two rather different things.

    Kind a like in auto racing; catching up to the guy in front of you is one thing, now passing him ican be a different matter.

    In 25 years of flying I never had a situation where this would have come in handy; simply because that information is already available today in the cockpit; if you did your flight planning as you should have. :-)

  • 0 Hide
    dark_knight33 , December 3, 2012 4:29 PM
    I don't think this is particularly news worthy. UAVs, drones etc have had this capability, likely using ARM variants for a very very long time. This is just doing it on a larger scale. The math required for this is no more impressive than the Motorola CPUs that have been running the fuel injection & ignition advance in GMs since the early 80's.
  • 1 Hide
    pixelpusher220 , December 3, 2012 4:38 PM
    freggoIn 25 years of flying I never had a situation where this would have come in handy; simply because that information is already available today in the cockpit; if you did your flight planning as you should have. :-)


    And how many seconds did Sully Sullenberger have to spend to figure out where he could go? This app would have told him was and wasn't possible since it would have already calcuated it.
  • 0 Hide
    igot1forya , December 3, 2012 6:26 PM
    pixelpusher220And how many seconds did Sully Sullenberger have to spend to figure out where he could go? This app would have told him was and wasn't possible since it would have already calcuated it.

    Gravity, lift and momentum was already calculating where he would land for him... in this case, he selected the least of the worst places possible as a runway was impossible to return to.
  • 0 Hide
    SuperVeloce , December 3, 2012 6:55 PM
    yeah, perfectly balanced, 10% lift, impossible without a computer. It was a combination of high tech airplane, good actions by pilots under stress, weather... count one out and you have a disaster.
  • 0 Hide
    10tacle , December 3, 2012 7:24 PM
    nuclearshadowIf a airline company would be willing to put people in that much risk for profits would it not make sense for them to save money by removing the pilot and co-pilot and have a computer that they would not have to pay to do the same job and remove the chance of a worker strike?


    Jeeze you are the whiner about corporations and CEOs. I highly doubt the FAA would ever approve of that happening, and more importantly and to the point, I highly doubt the general public would approve of that happening. As a private pilot myself, I will never ride in an airplane without humans in control. Now for automated airport train shuttles like Atlanta's airport has for transporting between concourses and baggage/ticketing, that's another thing.

    In any event, this tool would never replace the current IFR approach procedures. Flying in the real world is not like flying X Plane or FSX on a PC. But let's not forget there are FAA-approved navigation apps for tablets. Pilots have been using Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck on iPads for a couple of years now.
  • 1 Hide
    palladin9479 , December 3, 2012 11:20 PM
    Wow lots of strong emotional reactions, maybe from how this was presented.

    This will NEVER replace a pilot, in fact nothing will ever replace a pilot. It's just an advanced navigation system, you plug it into the airplane and it's an improved auto-pilot. There will still be a pilot sitting right behind the controls watching everything and able to take control should anything overly "bad" happen.

    Once it's part of the airplane it then connects to local ATC towers and can coordinate approaches and correct for any irregularities at a faster rate then a human can.

    It's a fact of life, computers have faster processing capabilities with faster reaction times then any human could hope to have. Trained humans tend to have better long term pattern recognition and prediction abilities then computers have.
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