Vanderbilt engineers are part of a NASA-funded, multi-institution effort to develop safety systems for a mode of transportation that doesn’t exist yet—small, commercial, autonomous planes that move people by air between locations in large, crowded cities.
The task is a formidable one with machine learning at its core. Autonomous, or self-piloted, airplanes must communicate with each other. They must respond to hazards, from weather to equipment malfunction to “uncooperative” other aircraft to prevent collisions and crashes. And all this must unfold in real time, in defined corridors separate from existing air traffic routes but without continuous air control support on the ground.