Last month, a robot plane safely carried passengers 500 miles from England to Scotland and back again, the British consortium operating the plane revealed Monday.
Dubbed “the Flying Test Bed,” the plane is a normal 19-seat Jetstream—the kind a corporate executive might fly in—that was converted to fly autonomously.
The group behind the plane is Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment (Astraea), a business consortium funded by the British government and private businesses.
The test flight wasn’t completely autonomous—a human pilot onboard entered the cockpit to steer the plane through take-off, and then later the landing. The majority of the flight, however, that long tedium of maintaining a plane at cruising altitude, was in control of the remote pilot, with autonomous systems doing much of the actual flying.
While this was a test flight, it didn’t interrupt normal air traffic, and it’s 500-mile round-trip between Warton, England, and Inverness, Scotland, occurred in regular commercial airspace, shared with other airplanes.